Moving to Hyde Park put me substantially further from my high school teaching job. What used to be a 50 mile round trip has mushroomed into a 92 mile marathon through the entire Chicago metropolitan area.
Fortunately, living in Hyde Park has put me closer to downtown Chicago, with it’s many options for public transit, and I have worked out my schedule to be able to take the train to and from work most days. It’s kind of a convoluted sequence I go through to get my day going–take the South Shore Metra downtown, hike it across the Loop to Union Station, take the train northwest to Libertyville, and then walk to school. It also takes a lot longer to get to and from where I’m going on the train than it does when I’m driving outside of the rush hour time window–driving takes about an hour, while the train is pushing the two hour mark after transferring and the like.
Despite the lengthy journey via train, I’d pick that form of transportation in a heartbeat over driving. After spending several years driving nearly 50,000 annual miles, getting a chance to finally kick back, study scores, work on my iPad, listen to music, and read while someone else drives me feels like a better use of my time.
I’m having to haul my bass much less these days than I used to, which is sad in a way because it indicates how much less playing I’m doing than I used to do a few years back. Still, my days are spent making music, teaching music, and being creative in the field of music, so I really can’t complain. In fact, I’m substantially happier doing what I’m doing right now than I was as a full-time freelancer.
Of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows on the train, and I’m getting uncomfortably familiar with trudging through rain, mud, wind, and (soon) snow, as well as twiddling my thumbs and feeling the minutes I have left on Earth melt away as I wait for train after train. Of course, the same thing would be happening to me in the car!
I used to take the Chicago El all the time (and still do when going to DePaul to teach or to go hang out in the city), but the Metra commuter experience is much calmer and more conducive to work, and I am discovering how truly different “train time” is from regular commuting. In fact, I don’t exactly count this train time as commuting time, but rather as scheduled “office” time in which I return emails, study scores, plan classes, and the like. I’m trying to (with rare exceptions) be working 100% of the time while on the train, and I’m finding that, as a result, I don’t have to do much of anything besides relax when I’m home. I actually feel like I have less time in my life when I’m driving, realizing how much stuff I do actually get done while on the train.
Not to be a total Apple fanboy (oh, who am I kidding?), but the iPad is a device that seems built specifically for a person with my setup. I use is as my laptop (I haven’t carried my laptop with me once since getting the iPad), my book reader, movie player, newspaper, portable compendium of scores, articles, and bass parts (thank you, GoodReader!), and my all-purpose musical device for teaching. I use it to teach classes, private lessons, planning clinics, and pretty much everything else. It never runs out of batteries and is small and unobtrusive.
I wish that I could be a rail commuter one hundred percent of the time, but playing bass and having the oddball hours and commutes that I have makes this a dim possibility. Still, I can’t help but feel like I’m doing some small part keeping my car mostly off the road, and it just feels… better, I suppose, to take the train rather than drive.