Wednesday, March 11, 2009

With Apologies to Socrates

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates

Wednesday –

By the time I begin looking for a substantive item to write about when at the office, it is not unusual for as many as 10 hours of the day to have flown.

Six of those hours are spent (or I try to spend them) in a sound, relaxing, rejuvenating sleep – give or take 15 minutes Dressing, eating breakfast, and gathering the stray computer memory stick and occasionally the laptop itself, and having combined these items with a few others (e.g., an apple or orange for lunch), I put the lot in my travel bag. This requires 45 to 50 minutes – unless the newspaper has a number of interesting reports that I scan with the intention of calling up on the office computer to read more (add 5-10 minutes).

Should the day be cold and/or include a forecast for heavy rain, I will don the appropriate outerwear (2-3 minutes depending on the coat and whether or not I have to dig out gloves or an umbrella.) and head for the garage. Driving the approximately 1.3 miles from our house to the commuter rail station is highly variable because I usually leave when all the school buses are stopping on virtually every street to pick up students. Moreover, there is a high school whose outdoor playing fields are just across the street from two of the three commuter parking areas, which adds to the congestion. The usual route I drive has 5 stoplights and one stop sign. Depending on how many (if any – of these I “hit” on a green signal, the driving time varies from 8 to 14 minutes. Should I have to park in the furthest lot from the rail-station, I must add 6-8 minutes for the walk to the station.

Figure I arrive at the station and validate my fare ticket with an average wait time of 10 minutes to spare before the train is due to depart the station. The rail trip to the Washington station where I disembark (word choice is tricky here, for I normally associate “disembark” with leaving a ship, but “de-train” sounds gruesome) is 60 minutes. (When the crew has an operational safety test, which happens about twice a month, add 10-15 minutes to the running time.) I then walk four or five blocks to the office (15 to 20 minutes) where, after getting coffee or making a cup of hot chocolate, I turn on the computer, plug in one or two memory sticks, and begin perusing the news stories that I saw in the paper delivered to our home or other stories I pick from the ether – another 10-15 minutes.

Adding the elapsed time durations noted in each of the three paragraphs above yields in the first 5¾ to 6 hours rest and another 50 to 60 minutes to get everything ready to depart for the office. The local travel from house to rail station is another 14 to 25 minutes – normally closer to the lower figure. Adding the “wait time” to the final leg of the trip absorbs from between 95 and 105 minutes with a final 10 to15 minutes to get settled at my work station.

Grand total time comes to between 8 hours 14 minutes and 9 hours 25 minutes –and that is without being sociable at all.

The point of the exercise is not profound. It has taken me about two hours to write something that is quite mundane and frankly of little interest to even me. But it points to one of the problems of suburban living that in some cases is exacerbated by changes in health as the working population ages – a less than optimal use of time and other resources when there is flexibility in the communications infrastructure that is the equivalent of the transportation infrastructure built 60 years ago. Then we wanted to move things and people. Now we need to move ideas and processes.

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