The commute. A noun describing the regular journey between home and place of employment or education. Or what I like to call it: The biggest waste of time ever spent with people you do not want to be with. A few musings about commuting.

Bahnhof Greifswalder Strasse
Commute (2016) Panasonic GM1 + Lumix G.20 / F1.7 II ISO 12500 1/60s F1.7

My employer at the time was very keen on being present for an exact amount of time. It did not matter if this time was used productively or not. What mattered was being there. And I wanted to be there sooner rather than later. I figured spending an hour in the morning eating a leisurely breakfast at home or sleeping a bit longer was worth far less than having half the afternoon to myself. At least in the afternoon I could do something, visit something, go someplace or meet people. So I went out at 5:12 am every morning to trudge to the train station. There I could admire this view while waiting for my train. I would then spent 20 minutes in a passenger compartment with people who without exception never smiled. They ALWAYS looked dour and unhappy. Of course they were all commuting to their routine jobs like I did. On occasion a few late party goers would have some fun and more often than not a sad individual who was living rough would soil the compartment.

Commuting is the most mind numbing and soul crushing experience in my life. The daily routine, the sameness of the people, the trains, stations and scenery. It is pure boredom but it includes reaching a destination from which you leave again in the afternoon just to do it all over again. Especially the early morning commute attracts only a handful of people who would wait at the same spots, sit in the same seats and take the same number of steps up the escalator or stairs. They would wear the same jackets, bags and shoes day in day out only changing with the seasons. The worst people were those who would not conform to the unspoken rule of silence, looking at a book, their phone or gazing out of the window, those who would dare to talk to each other. About their work of all topics! Complaining, moaning and lamenting. If there is one place one could wait for Godot it would be on a daily commute. Didi and Gogo waited on a country road after all.

“Read a book”, “Listen to a podcast” or “Watch something on your phone” would many say. But even this is no nourishment for the tortured soul. There is no way to focus on a good book when doors open and close every minute, people rush in and out and phones ring and beep every so often. The only literature genres I see are newspapers, romance novels and 50 shades of bored housewives in their Kindle incarnations, so that Amazon knows you are into kinky stuff. The same goes for podcasts. I am already talking and listening to people all day at the office. How could I bear to listen to more talking on my way home? So music was the only solace until I grew to hate the music I was listening too because it became inextricably connected to the dreary drudgery of moving from A to B and back from B to A and again, and again and again.

Here is my advice to people who ask which job to take or where to apply. Get a job nearby or be ready to move. Don’t waste time commuting. “Oh but is just for a few years” quickly becomes half your life once you grow accustomed to your place of work and your home. And then you do not want to change either. But people realize this more and more and in the future many office jobs can be and will be done remotely. From home or maybe from someplace else around town. Commuting to the office twice a week becomes exciting. Like a little trip to somewhere, a place to meet people or to hang out for coffee while talking shop.

For myself I have found a solution. I work only half days at the office. Then I already am in the big city that is Berlin, I can use my afternoons for photography, for collecting stories and images. In a sense I work a full day split between a job that integrates me into society, gives me structure and pays the bills and a vocation that allows me to explore, expand my mind and create something I love.

Photographic Notes:

I do miss my little Panasonic GM1. But I need to keep myself minimized. It was a perfect little commute camera. It worked great for black and white images before sunrise. I love to crush the blacks and have parts of the image completely dark.