The small-c commute: I love it

The small-c commute: I love it

I have lived, worked and studied all over Canada, and I have driven it all.

So, Census Canada released the statistics on Canadian commuting, and we all find it fascinating.

Turns out, 26 minutes or so is the average amount of time it takes the average Canadian to drive to work.

What a great statistic to read, as we sit back and contemplate our lives here in Cranbrook and Kimberley. My commute is about three minutes, at its most leisurely (I could walk to the office in 20 minutes, if so inclined). I think about the great convenience of my commute every day, and offer thanks for my good fortune.

For I have lived, worked and studied all over Canada, and I have driven it all. I have experienced the joys of the Ville Marie Expressway in Montreal, Canada’s most fun urban drive, in my opinion. I have crawled through the urban hell that is downtown Toronto at rush hour. I figured out all the sneaky routes into and out of and through Calgary. Sometimes they added distance, but they always shaved off time. (And in Calgary in recent years, all those routes have changed, twisting an morphing in another route altogether. I confidently set out to go where I’m going, based on past experience, and find myself completely lost. Madness!)

I have even factored the ferry from Victoria to Vancouver into my driving life.

That long commute is a plague of urban living. For such a sedentary activity — sitting in your car for an hour — it can be remarkably stressful. Especially because you and everyone around is on the clock. But for me, it was never so much the long driving in cities that made me anxious. For me it was always the parking. The parking!

How many hours in my life have I spent, driving around a block looking for a spot, late for an appointment. I have had cars towed away in every major city in Canada — and they weren’t always mine. That can take years off one’s life. There was more than one occasion where I actually moved out of town, because of the massive debt in unpaid parking tickets I had accumulated. Once was from Calgary — I ended up paying those. I never paid the ones from the other city, so I’m not going to say which one, in case that particular parking authority is reading this — even though it was now decades ago. Remember, back in the 18th century, they’d throw you into debtor’s prisons like Newgate, for parking tickets! For parking tickets!

I have been a great user of public transit. The subways in Montreal and Toronto are comfortable and efficient. Waiting for a bus in Saskatoon in winter can be a bit of a drag, but it’s always a great relief when it arrives.

I even recently rode the tube in London during rush hour — kind of a tourist experience. It wasn’t at all bad. Quite crowded, but everyone was polite and it got you where you were going in no time flat (except for all that train-changing).

Back to the commute, or lack thereof. The longest, most tiring commute I have been accustomed to was actually where I grew up, in the middle of the bald prairie. To even get the mail was a five mile drive into the little ghost town nearby, where the mailboxes were. If I wanted to drive to school, or to do sports, or socialize with friends, it was 17 miles to the little town where I went to school. For grocery shopping, piano lessons, and such other, it was 30 miles in the other direction to the slightly bigger town where there were more amenities.

I rode the school bus for 12 years of my life. The school was only 17 miles away, but the bus ride took 40 minutes, for all the ducking down backroads to various farms. Funny how I only remember these bus rides, or drives, as being set in winter. Getting on a cold school bus while it was still dark, or getting into a cold car for a half hour drive along the winter roads.

Give me a leisurely toodle down 14th Avenue, a stop for the student crossing at the high school, a quick duck onto Cranbrook Street North.

So to me, living in Cranbrook is absolutely perfect when it comes to driving distances.

Here’s to small town living.

Barry Coulter is Editor of the Cranbrook Townsman

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