Work: Getting there quickly is half the fun …

It’s August. Congress has gone home. The threat level to feds is low, for now. So rather than ruin your month with the-end-is-near (or not!) reports, let’s briefly slow the pace and deal with what is really important. Like getting to and from work. With that in mind …

A while back, a writer friend, who did a lot of traveling (mostly by plane), decided to write a magazine piece about truth-and-strangers. She wanted to find out what intimate details people would disclose to perfect strangers they knew they would never see again.

(I hasten to add this was long before the Internet, Google or Facebook. Obviously things have changed. But this was back in a time when there was a lot more privacy and self-control).

Anyhow, my writer friend, got an earful. She found that in two, three and four hour trips, by being a good, sympathetic listener, she found out secrets that spouses, best friends, family members never knew. She heard about marriages-for-life gone bad. About kids (or parents) who are disappointments. About crooked bosses and cheating coworkers.


Although admittedly very unscientific, she concluded that given the right circumstances — as in we’ve never met before and never will meet again — people would fess up to just about anything. She referred to it as something like a confessional, at 30,000 feet!

At the time she concluded that people would be perfectly frank — with complete strangers — about many things. But there were some areas, she said, that were either off limits, or where people (she was sure) either fibbed or fooled themselves.

She said she met dozens of people who said their marriages (or relationships) were failures. That it was their fault. That they were sexually or emotionally flawed. Or dishonest or cowardly. The only things people consistently fibbed about, she decided, was their sense of humor, and their commute to work.

She said that no matter what other failures people owned up to everybody thought he or she had a good sense of humor. Even when they were duller than clams.

She also found, via trial and error, that it took everybody about 20 minutes to get to work. No matter where they lived, where they worked or how they got there. She said she could understand ignoring the fact that you are humor- challenged. Maybe they laughed inwardly or secretly thought they were hilarious. But she couldn’t figure out why so many people (many, most, everybody) fibs about their commute time. As in shortening it.

Tuesday’s column touched on the issue of commuter fables. In this case it was based on a column a former colleague wrote, years ago entitled, I think, “20 Minutes To Reston.” His point was that many people, for whatever reason, tend to shave their commute time so that no matter how far they really travel each day, they say their commute takes “about 20 minutes!”

A number of good-natured feds responded. One woman said, “When I worked two blocks from my agency I was late a lot of them time. Perhaps twice a week. Not by much but I was still late.” She moved to the Virginia suburbs where she has a much longer commute to another agency “And I am never, ever, ever late.” Something else at play here!

Averages can be tricky, another reader noted: ” I count (commute time) it door to door. Over an hour for me from my current house. But in my old condo, I walked to work in less than 5 minutes. On average that’s pretty good.”

David, a Social Security employee in Baltimore, cut to the chase with a reality check for yours truly. In the column — about others fibbing about their commute — I said I had made it in that day in 18 minutes flat. To which he replied that he knew I live just a few miles from the office and therefore, “You maneuver through placid upper Northwest unlike real commuters.” Guility as charged. Still, the problem is you, not me…



By Michael O’Connell

A tire with a diameter of 23.7 inches turns 874 revolutions in a mile.



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