• H. Rick Goff

The Commute


On a dark winter morning the thick cold air mutes the sound of the snow plow trying to move the snow off the street. I tap the snooze button one more time as I try to squeeze every second of sleep out of the night. My mind goes over the planned events of the day as my body finally throws the covers off. My feet embrace the warm carpet on the floor. I mentally prepare myself as I wash up for my daily journey. I put on my coat, scarf, and boots. The commute begins.


The snow has been falling for over four hours now and shows no sign of letting up. The snow plows give up as the heavily falling snow forms a pillowy layer over the road. I drive through the thick cloud of snow more from memory than from actual sight. The windshield wipers can only clear a small peep hole which allows me to see the white blanket masking as the road. The five-minute drive to the bus stop takes twenty minutes today, but I'm a commuter, this is part of the commute.


Like an old movie, the backdrop of snow makes the world appear black and white. I don't park the car but simply stop, get out, and head toward the stick figures that have formed a line in the snow.


When I reach the line, I greet the hats, scarves, ear muffs, and eyes peeping through totally covered faces with an invisible smile and barely audible, Good Morning. I become one of the stick figures standing motionless in the driving wet snow waiting for the bus. The stick figures make no sound, but they are all thinking the same question to themselves, "What am I doing here??" But here we are, this is part of the commute.


The wind is howling, the snow is blinding, but the dim yellow lights of the commuter bus appear in the distance. The bus is running late, it will be a long commute today. The snow-covered bus looks like Moby Dick as it swims up and stops near the long line of stick figures. As I board the bus, the driver greets me with a non-existent smile. I give him my ticket every day, but he inspects it like it’s the first time he has ever seen one. He knows me, but he doesn't know me, I'm just another commuter. This is part of the commute.


The bus leaves deep tracks in the snow as it heads to the city. The snow stops falling and I watch out the window as it changes from a white blanket into brown slush. The closer the bus gets to the city; the softness of the snow is replaced by the dirty salt and sand of the snow melting mixture. The traffic churns the mixture into a slushy brown glue that sticks to everything in sight. The guard rails, the road signs, and the vehicles themselves can't escape as the glue absorbs everything, including sound. But the bus pushes on, this is part of the commute.


The bus finally arrives at the busiest bus station in the world, the Port Authority. Thousands of coats, hats, boots, backpacks, and umbrellas unload from the buses. The scene seems like total chaos, but there is a method to the perceived madness. Everyone knows exactly where they are going. A subway train, a city bus, a taxi, or a long walk to the office is the next phase of the journey. This is part of the commute.


I make my way out of the maze into one of the exits. The penguin march to the office begins as I shuffle along in the single file line that has been carved in the dirty piled up snow. I'm not surprised to see the homeless guy I have seen every day for the past three years perched on his turned over barrel with a box full of change near his feet. We greet each other with our familiar head nod as I put a couple of bucks in his box. This is part of the commute.


I finally make it to the office, I thaw out and settle in for a busy day. I spend the next ten hours solving the problems of the world from my nineteenth-floor office. I look out the window and see snow falling again. I put on my coat, scarf, and boots. The commute begins!

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