T he Globe just ran a story about how—get this—traffic in Boston is bad. Which seems obvious, but there’s actually data to support your subjective observation that it’s worse now, so much worse. Inrix, a traffic data firm, says that in the past four years, the total number of annual miles driven in Boston has increased by 10 percent. Roads, meanwhile, have increased by zero percent (my estimate). And now Comm. Ave. is closed, and all the traffic maps show solid red, and you could make an anatomically correct mold of your ass from the indentation on your driver’s seat. Obviously, it’s time for new ideas. Luckily, I have some.
First of all, we need to expand our definition of roads. If you live on an intersection, why not charge people to cut across your lawn? I mean, I’m doing it anyway, so I’d be happy to pay you a quarter. If everyone did that, it would go a long way toward fixing your hydrangeas. For a hearty shrub, they sure don’t like to be run over. Also fair game: parking lots, horse trails, empty lots and the tops of dams. Life is a highway, and so is that golf course cart path.
How about traveling at odd hours? Supposedly, rush hour is all the time now, but I beg to differ. What if you go to work at 3 am and do a 24-hour shift? Perhaps you’ll need a tall coffee toward the tail end of that shift, but the only traffic you’ll see is the stuff you’re directing up there in the sky. Yeah, the airport brass has beef with you pulling these hours, but that’s why you constructed a whole second identity. Now get back to the tower and call a runway for that 737, “Bob Ronkowski.”
Or take it a step further and move to the office. A friend of mine who worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers said that they have showers at the office because employees regularly pull all-nighters. It sounded kind of like the Foxconn factory where the workers live in barracks five feet from the assembly lines, except that instead of making iPhones they’re appraising underwater chicken houses, which is what I assume PricewaterhouseCoopers does. So I think you see where I’m going with this— if you secretly live at work, you look like a real go-getter while eliminating your commute and probably rent, too. If co-workers ever mention that they’d love to see your place, just say, “Oh, I’d have you over, but we’re fumigating for brown marmorated stink bugs.” Then that guy will mention your infestation to another co-worker, who will say, “I thought he had emerald ash borers?” For crying out loud, keep your invasive insects straight or this whole charade falls apart.
OK, another idea: You get a car that drives itself. Plenty of cars these days will follow the vehicle in front of you and even steer to keep you between the lines. That won’t get you there faster, but you will be more refreshed, at least until your car drives off an incomplete overpass. Alternatively, you could call an Uber. Sure, your driver might want to engage in some light wrestling, but that’s a small price to pay for convenience.
Or you could carpool so that you can use the HOV lane. But that’ll mean making friends with Lance, who is the only co-worker who lives near you. Lance wears moon boots all year round and uses a standing desk, but get this—he sits at it, in a really high chair, like he’s lifeguard of the cube farm. So you’re dealing with an hour in the car by yourself or a half-hour with Lance listening to quotes from The Big Bang Theory while choking on Drakkar fumes. Remember that one time his car broke down and you gave him a ride, and he sat in the back even though it was just the two of you? You weren’t really against kids being homeschooled until you found out that Lance was.
You might also consider creative public transportation options. If you live in Hingham or Hull, you can take a ferry, which is like a train that can sink. Ahoy, matey! You’ll arrive at work crusted in salt and seaweed, reeking of diesel and squid, but how about that view? I ask you, has Gordon Lightfoot ever been moved to poetry by the T? No. I rest my case. But if you don’t live in a salty maritime community, there are other little-known mass-transit options, such as the Medfield Commuter Catapult and the North Shore Express Bobsled (seasonal).
Ultimately, when it takes you three hours to get from Exit 5A to Exit 5B, just remind yourself that all this traffic is ultimately a good thing, a manifestation of a healthy economy and a vibrant society. And also, this is it. We’ve already built highways under the ocean. It’s not getting any better. So you may as well embrace acceptance. Which is the name of your Uber driver. ◆
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