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Column

23 minutes and counting

Twenty-three minutes one way. That’s the amount of time it takes me to back out of my driveway in Sheffield and pull into the parking lot at the Bureau County Republican. Depending on that eternal stoplight at the corner of North Main Street and Backbone Road, those 23 minutes could be more like 25, but if I hit the green light, it’s simply a 23-minute commute.

Of course there’s the return trip home, also a 23-minute drive depending on that stoplight and depending if I take the backroads through Captain Swift Bridge. I love that route versus the one on Routes 6/34, where people are way too eager to get to their destinations — either to work or school in the mornings or to get home in the evenings.

So 23 minutes each way totals 46 minutes round trip. That’s the amount of time I spend in transit Monday through Friday. Those 46 minutes equate to 230 minutes each week, or 3.83 hours. In a year, not counting vacation time or the occasional holiday, that means I spend 199.16 hours in my car going to or coming from work, or 8.3 days.

Keep in mind those totals might vary a bit depending on road conditions, weather conditions and my mental conditions. Snow, ice, fog and laziness all contribute to the equation.

I’ve had several people throughout the years ask me if I mind the drive to and from work. I usually answer with a quick “not really,” or something similar to that. After all, I used to live in a city where my seven-mile commute to work took me nearly an hour and 15 minutes because of rush hour traffic, so by comparison, this isn’t a big deal.

And so it was the other day when someone asked me that question about my daily drive. I’ve never really done the math before — adding and multiplying and dividing to come up with a grand total of how much time I spend on the road, just for my daily commute. It was kind of surprising to me once I saw the numbers in front of me. (Keep in mind I’m pretty good with words, not so great with numbers, but the aforementioned totals are fairly accurate.)

OK, to be honest, I sometimes am a bit envious of my colleagues who live in Princeton, go home for lunch and drive five or six minutes each way to get to the office. But like the saying goes, “You can’t miss what you never had.” I’ve always driven the Sheffield to Princeton trek and vice versa, so it seems perfectly normal for me, though the idea of going home for lunch to kick my feet up for a few minutes sounds very appealing most days.

But conversely, I love my home in Sheffield; I love the people there; I like knowing most all of my neighbors ... and if that means I have to use 46 minutes a day to keep those people and things close to me, well — then so be it.

Let me explain why those 23 minutes don’t seem like such a big deal to me anymore. Aside from the fact I’ve done it for 20 or so years, there’s something intrinsically satisfying about those 23-minute jaunts twice a day. Living in a place in time in my life when I don’t have many minutes to myself, those 23 minutes (times two) are nothing short of therapeutic, healing, and you better believe I use those minutes wisely.

There are days when I ride the entirety of the journey in complete silence — only allowing the constant chatter in my head to surface. No radio. No CD. No Bluetooth. No satellite radio. Silence, except for the wind coming in through a cracked window or sun roof, or the heater/air conditioner keeping me comfortable.

Other days, the stereo is reminiscent of days gone by — days of my youth when I was told too-loud music would cause me to become deaf someday. I sing along with the music like nobody is listening (because they aren’t), and if I don’t’ know all the words, I make them up as I go along. These days are perfect for when I want to quiet the chatter in my head, for the volume is loud enough to drown out those worries, anxiety, misgivings, etc.

Then there are those days when I turn on National Public Radio (NPR), and I either shake my head in disbelief at what I’m hearing, or I cheer on the person speaking. I’ve learned quite a bit from NPR — both good and not so good.

There are days when I attempt to catch up with missed telephone calls, and I find myself using the 23 minutes to call a friend or a family member to catch up. Sometimes I try to get a jump on my day and call someone whose calls I’ve missed during the day at the office. I’m not fond of Bluetooth — just because people can call me when I’m on one of my silent or too-loud music jaunts, but it does help me catch up with family/friends and allows me to return calls I can’t find time for during the day.

And then there’s the scenery. The beautiful landscape Bureau County affords me reminds me why I live here. From baby animals in the spring to flowers blooming in the yards I pass to beautiful fall foliage to the desolate look of snow blanketing the world as far as I can see — oh, and the daily deer, coyote, raccoon and other wild animal sightings — well, I cherish the picture I pass by every day.

So 46 minutes every day — well, if I’m completely honest, I don’t really mind. Actually, I consider those 46 minutes somewhat of a gift to myself because after all, I firmly believe one’s journey teaches you a lot about your destination.

BCR Editor Terri Simon can be reached at tsimon@bcrnews.com.

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