Whether you're in Boston, New York, San Francisco, or Cleveland, getting from Point A to Point B is no simple matter. It's sort of like the Olympics. You can't just walk in off the street and be an instant athlete. It takes months, maybe even years, of intensive training, strict discipline, constant conditioning, grim determination....and a good sense of humor, besides. (Really!)
But don't fret, commuter wannabes. If you're truly committed to joining the big leagues, here are some simple tips for a long, successful run as a professional commuter.
Car, train, boat, or plane? It doesn't matter how you go. "One if by land, two if by sea" doesn't apply anymore, especially when you add things like scooters, bicycles, mopeds, Segways, Lyft, Uber, and jungle vines (you heard me correctly!) to the mix. Flexibility is the key, especially when things can change on a moment's notice and you need to find alternative transportation.
Follow the crowd. The secret to survival? Watch what other people are doing. Sometimes one or two alert souls are right on top of impending problems or route changes. Like a last-minute track switch at the train station or an accident or construction area ahead on the highway.
Keep up the reps. The more you travel the same route, the more you'll be aware of subtle differences that may signal the need for a slight adjustment to your routine, Repetition has its rewards, such as making you more attuned to your vehicle, your surroundings, and your fellow passengers.
Use technology to your advantage. There's an app for every occasion...from EZ Passes to commuter rail ticketing and schedules, weather forecasts to GPS route mapping and traffic alerts (via Siri, Google, or your provider of choice).
Be prepared for anything. These days, it never hurts to be too prepared. Put together a survival kit with items like snacks, drinks, tissues, first aid, meds, smartphone, pad of paper (when out of wifi range), extra USB cords, charger and/or battery, earphones, books to read, parachute, flotation vest, etc.
Signs, signs, everywhere signs. You almost need to be a speed reader, especially on the highway when you're making split second decisions at 65 mph. Train, subway, and bus stations are another place to pay attention to the hundreds of useful (sometimes not) messages assaulting you at every turn. Just stay alert for vital info, in between all the ads and billboards!
Get your rear in gear. Sure, you might be spending a lot of time on your duff...but that doesn't mean being a couch or car potato. Some people have found ways to do isometric car calisthenics, like when waiting for a light to change. Or, on a particularly long trip, take a break occasionally to get up, stretch your legs, even walk around if possible. You could also make a restroom stop or grab a latte en route.
Chill out. Leave the road rage at the garage or parking lot. There are plenty of people just like you having to make unanticipated lane changes, field phone calls, cope with detours, etc. And remember, timetables and schedules should be a guide, not carved-in-stone commandments. Getting to an appointment on time is important, but not the end of the world. Modern urban life demands adaptability...as well as understanding and compassion for fellow travelers.
Finally, enjoy the scenery. Take some time to stop and smell the roses, it'll make your trip so much nicer. Use your smartphone to snap some pictures along the way. Gaze at the sunrise on the train ride home. Or, most subversive of all, smile at the commuters alongside you in the next lane...it'll make them wonder what you're up to. Seriously, though being a cheerful, thoughtful traveler can be contagious...pass it on!