Ending the commute: A retrospective

Posted on

To live and work in the same city: That’s the dream, isn’t it? To the rest of the world, this seems obvious; yet, to many people who live in the Greater Toronto Area, this is merely pie in the sky that requires compromises that many do not wish to make. You either need to live in an overpriced condo that’s barely big enough to turn around in, or you need to take a cut in pay to work at a place of employment that’s not in the center of the universe. After running the numbers, I came to the realization that the cost in time and money of my commute had become significantly greater than the difference in pay in accepting a position as an Electrician in the city in which I live, so I put in my two week’s notice. This is how it’s been so far.

What a commute!

In the week leading up to my last day at my old job, I had to train my replacement. During this time, I realized I could re-schedule my appointments with my dental specialist so that I would not need to miss any time at work, as they were within a 10 minute drive of my new place of employment. This would be a new thing for me, and put me in a very good mood. It was a fun week with a fellow electrician, but I admit I was eager to end my commute, so I put in extra time on Thursday to make sure the job was finished so that I could take Friday off. I submitted all of my paperwork Thursday, and bid my new replacement as well as my soon-to-be former colleagues and employer adieu.

On Friday, I called up my insurance company to advise them of the change in my commute. I was advised that the savings in insurance would be around $400 per year. I didn’t even consider this savings when I ran the numbers.

People arguing on the highway, is this healthy?

On Sunday night, I was all ready to start my new job. I noticed the gas in my truck was at a quarter tank. Normally, I would head out to a gas station Sunday night to top up my tank to make my Monday commute as smooth as possible, but not anymore; a quarter tank would be plenty to start the week.

Monday morning, I woke up at my usual time of 5:00am, because I’m used to it and the shop opens at 7 (my previous job started at 8). I had a leisurely breakfast, left the house at 6:30, sat in the line at McDonald’s for a coffee, and still arrived at work plenty early, breezing past the line up of cars waiting to get onto the highway. Monday was a good day where I got to meet my new co-workers and adjusted to this new culture. I discovered I was not alone in detesting the commute, as I was working alongside other ex-commuters. At the end of the day, I was home well before dinner time.

On Tuesday, I noticed that my truck still had a quarter tank of gas as I continued to adjust to my new workplace culture. Since part of my job involves documentation, I installed LibreOffice, Thunderbird, and Firefox on my workplace PC so that I could continue to use the apps I was familiar with. Doing wiring diagrams with Draw is a snap, the export to PDF function is a breeze, and it works so much better than Microsoft’s offerings. I’ve become as committed to using open source software as I am about ending my commute. I stopped at the dental specialist on my way home, and still arrived at home in plenty of good time to enjoy dinner and a quiet evening of watching Netflix.

My dream of driving an all-electric car started in April of 2011 and ended with my long commute.

Driving home on Wednesday, I noticed that the fuel gauge dipped a little below a quarter tank on my truck. Hearing that gas prices might go up, I decided to fill up. As I did, I wondered, would I even need to fill up once a week, or would a tank of gas last me two? Three? Maybe the entire month? If all I did was drive to work and back, I could get two months out of a tank of gas in my truck. Even a super gas miser sub-compact would have cost me $100 per week in gas with my old commute, and my truck, with its cylinder deactivation mode, was still costing around $150 a week, and the range of all but the most expensive electric cars wouldn’t even cut it for my commute. I often dreamed of buying an electric car just to avoid the gas line at the pump every other day. Now the occasional stop at the pumps didn’t seem so bad, and even a short range used Nissan Leaf with a diminished battery would offer plenty of range and utility if I didn’t need to tow my camper in the summer.

It was all sinking in by the time Thursday came around. My stress levels had gone down noticeably as I ran numbers through my head; between gas and the 407, I had easily been spending over $16,000 per year of after tax dollars ($20,000 of pre-tax dollars) between gas and tolls alone, never mind the stress and risks associated with such a long commute. I vowed that I would never do that kind of commute again. It was madness that had taken its toll.

Stuck on Highway 407 after a deadly accident.

Friday is a half day at my new job. With my old job, I was excited for half day Friday’s because it meant I could beat the traffic and get home at a reasonable time. Today, it meant that I truly had what felt like the start of a long weekend, as I went home to enjoy lunch and celebrate my first week at my new local job. The increase in the price of gas this weekend was all over the news, and I could not care less.

I remember a colleague from my Y2k programming days who quit his job when the company announced they were relocating from an office tower on the subway line in North York to a building far from any subway in Markham. He had become accustomed to a car-free and commute-free lifestyle where he would travel a short trip on the subway from his condo to work, and believed he could always find work in his field on the subway line in Toronto. At the time, I thought he was being short-sighted, but then I eventually was laid off from this company. I’ve lost touch with this man, but his conviction stuck with me and was a catalyst that drove me to change careers and start work at General Motors in the early 2000’s. A place where the years on the line and the closure of our plants caused me to forget as I focused on getting my trade license.

I started to write about this experience on my blog, but as the weekend wore on, I started to think, “What’s the big deal?” I mean, why even write about this? It all seems so absurd. As I reflect now, I realize that I didn’t want to compromise on owning a house and having a well paying job with excellent benefits, but was blind to all the other compromises this forced me to make on my lifestyle, health, and well-being. So now, I’m done – REALLY done. I don’t even want to talk or write about it anymore.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *