I recently took a new job, as all the computers at my old company were finally fixed. Nothing left to do, time to move on. And though my new POE, or Place of Employement is in uptown Dallas – much farther than my previous commute – I am happy to make the trip for two simple reasons. Number A, it’s good to be back in my old stomping grounds. I’ve worked for several companies over the years that were based here around this area, and have gotten to know and love it. Letter two, working in uptown makes it possible (and logistically preferable) to use public transit.
Taking the train to work does not save me any time. On the contrary, in fact. It takes me probably an extra half- to three-quarters of an hour to get to work. But it saves gas. To the tune of over seventeen hundred dollars per year. One might also, though, say that it saves my sanity. I no longer have to worry about traffic jams and road rage; douchebags in oversized Chevy pickups who think they own the road. In fact, I saw one such specimen riding someone’s bumper in the fastlane from the window of the train this morning. You could not have fit a keg of beer between their bumpers. The man in the truck obviously had a higher opinion of himself than I do. I would gladly have shot him in the reno just to watch him die.
But I no longer have to worry about those things. Not as far as they might involve me, anyway. Now I only have to worry about getting shot on the downtown platform as I switch train lines to catch the Red across to my final destination. A couple of weeks ago, someone shot several people at the very stop I use, in fact. It’s not a product of public transit though; it is, rather, a product of the area itself. It has its trade-offs. But I’m happy to be riding the train to work, for two key reasons.
Secondly, I don’t have to pay attention to traffic and driving and stoplights. I am free to sit in a train car with about thirty strangers and do whatever the hell I want for the next sixty to seventy minutes. That’s more kind of the first reason – getting into what I get to do. But the big thing here is that I don’t have to drive. No wear and tear on my vehicle. No blowouts on the highway. No accidents. No traffic jams. I’m on a rigid schedule that drops me at the doorstep of my building at the same time every day, regardless of how many women caused accidents while trying to text someone on their iphones. So long as I get up at the correct time, I will be at my desk at the same time every day.
And firstly, like I said before, I get to do whatever I want on the train. I can read. I can also read books, magazines, reports, theses, autopsies, newspapers, craigslist want-ads and horror stories involving aliens, tentacles and women with more than the usual allotment of breasts. Or, I can just sit there and read if I want. I may even get lurpy and decide to read a little. See? Isn’t it great? I’m given over two hours of reading time a day where I would usually be sitting behind the wheel of a car! I have dedicated myself to do something productive on these rides. I feel that this time is a sort of gift, and I would be selfish and irresponsible to misuse or waste it.
So with that said, as you can see, it must be hard for one to debate the logic behind my excitement at having moved to this new company. This has its own perks, too. The new company for which I work hasn’t ever gotten around to writing a dress-code policy. It is, therefore, acceptable for women to walk around with low-cut blouses, cleavage bursting from their openings, and skirts so short one can see the mood the wearer was in when she went digging through her underwear drawer that morning. It is also, at least in the opinion of this reporter, somehow reproachable for women here to wear bras at all. One might say that I have found my perfect fit in the workplace. It’s probably a good thing that my red-haired wife works here with me.
So as a man who now fully supports and encourages the use of public transportation, I have recently begun to seek out other ways in which I can cut back on my dependencies. For instance, I use a local mom-and-pop shop pharmacy for all my drug needs. I also plan to look into the local pop-shop doctor, who is right next door to my pharmacy. Just the other side of that doctor’s office, in the same strip center, is the daycare station, where I take my tiny princess. Then down a couple of stores (I’ve no interest in the salon or the cleaners – we all know I cut my own hair and wear the same clothes every day) is a seafood place where I go every week to eat several pounds of crawfish and drink my own beer. And all of these places have one thing in common. Okay, well, you already know the surprise. They’re all in the same strip center. But the great thing about this strip center is that it’s only a few blocks from my house, and completely accessible by backroads and sidewalks. This means I can (and do) ride my bicycle to take care of the business each of these places conducts. I would say something cute here like “In short…” but we’re at a thousand words already. I’ll just say that I am now in a position where I will fill up my vehicle with fuel only once a month. Don’t you see, that’s only around three hundred dollars per year at the going rate of unleaded gas! Here’s where I say something cute like, “Suck it, bitches!”
Now all that’s left is to start catching my own fish from the lake upon which I live, maybe raise a couple of hens for their eggs, and start milking my neighbor’s dog. Then, of course, start manufacturing my twisty puzzles from the bark of the old alder in my front yard. He who is wasteful has forgotten the face of his father!
I am glad to report that self-sufficiency is just on the horizon. And though I may never reach it living in the city, I can come very close. Understand, this has nothing to do with the supposed decay of our environment. I think we have nothing to do with that. It is, rather, nice to know that I have more money in my pockets to spend on things like twisty puzzles and books, and supporting my wife’s ridiculous spending habits. She buys those kids so much crap! Amirite?
The funny thing about this paradigm shift in my way of thinking though, is that I haven’t really bought anything new in what seems like an eternity. I like well worn-in jeans from the Goodwill or Salvation Army. If they’re in good shape and look nice, hell, why not? I like buying used appliances. If someone needs to get rid of it to move, or they just need a little money, why not help them out instead of supporting a large commercial outfit? And don’t even get me started on Craigslist!
My son and I rode our bikes around the neighborhood the other day, stopping at every house that has a portable basketball goal. When a kid finally answered the door, I offered him cash for it. I said I would give him twenty-five or thirty dollars for his basketball goal if he no longer used it. He said, sure, he would take twenty.
Well, short story long, my son and I now have a basketball goal. I took it off the plastic base, dug a hole and sunk that puppy in two feet of concrete. It benefitted my family and that kid. Since he didn’t use it anymore, he now has twenty bucks to go get himself something he will use. Why, you ask, this sudden care for the welfare of humanity, Space? Well, I say, let’s not get carried away. But I’ve always believed in individual prosperity. I’d sooner give my cash to the little guy over the corporate giants every day.
Some things, obviously, can’t be used and reused. Paint, for instance. But it’s a satisfying feeling to dig a mud-dobber-infested dust collector out of someone’s bulk pickup pile and turn it into a sporty bicycle trailer. Seriously. For seven dollars’-worth of lumber and twelve of paint, I turned someone’s trash into a utility. That utility carried home a perfectly good desk from someone else’s bulk pickup pile the other day. The list really goes on and on.
Turning old to new, and liberating myself from the need of a motor vehicle has become not only a hobby, but a passion of mine. And there, if ever there were any free time, is where all my free time goes. Not that I believe rest and occasional laziness on the couch watching television is ignoble. I just don’t subscribe to it for my lifestyle. If I slow down, I’m afraid I’ll grind to a stop. I’m not getting much younger. So I spend forty-five of my best hours per week at work behind the corporate desk (in my shorts and flip-flops) and the rest of the time living off the land. Not in the usual context of the term, of course. But in the literal. No longer on the land of society. And therein, a new comfort zone can be birthed.