by J.D. Roth
Most days it takes me 28, 29, 30 minutes to drive to work. I should know. I time the trip every day. It takes me roughly ten minutes to get from our house to the middle stoplight in Oregon City; it takes another ten minutes to get from there to the first stoplight in Canby; and then it takes ten more minutes to get to the office.
On days with bad traffic, or when I hit the lights wrong, it can take as much as 32 minutes to make the drive. A good day is 27 minutes. Sometimes, in the summer, if the roads are dry and maybe there’s a holiday, I can do it in 26 minutes, but that happens maybe five or six times a year.
I have never been able to make the drive in 25 minutes, though goodness knows I’ve tried.
This morning it hadn’t even occurred to me to try for this golden goal. I wasn’t late (the usual impetus for trying such a feat), and I didn’t feel especially in a hurry. I planned to be alone with my thoughts on the drive to work.
Still, I couldn’t help but notice that the clock on the dashboard flicked from 6:33 to 6:34 just as I was pulling out of the driveway. There’s always a greater chance of a good time when the clock flips as I’m starting. (It buys me an extra thirty seconds on average, you know.)
When I made it through the middle stoplight in Oregon City at just over seven minutes (I’ve never made it in seven), thoughts of a personal best began to flit through my head. Then I made the stoplight at the tracks and the one at the top of the hill. “Whoa,” I thought. “A clean run through O.C. Eight minutes. I have a real chance here.”
My chances improved when traffic between Oregon City and Canby was light, and I had two cutters in front of me. A “cutter” is any scofflaw willing to break the speed limit, clearing the path ahead of me of any possible law enforcement. If I’m in a hurry, I try to find a cutter and then linger a quarter-mile back while he takes all the risk. With two 65mph+ cutters in front of me, things were looking great.
I made it to the stoplight in Canby at 6:51, seventeen minutes after I’d started. This is a great time (I’ve never done it in sixteen minutes), but what made it better was that the light was green. And, in a sort of miracle, so was the next one! (On average, these two lights probably stop me 1.4 times per trip.)
I took the smugglers’ run, turning off the highway and onto the side street in order to bypass the next light, but this is standard operating procedure. I have to make a left-hand turn against the flow of traffic, so if I didn’t do this, I’d be stuck waiting for a minute or more. I turned onto Ivy and crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t encounter any obstacles. I was pleased to see that the car in front of me took the school zone at 40mph (which is something that I won’t do — I stick to 30mph max). No problem there. I was even more pleased when the final light was green.
I don’t think I’ve ever made the trip without hitting a light until today. It was perfect. What’s more, I was on target for 25 minutes. It was in my grasp. That coveted target would be mine.
There was a slight snag on the Marquam highway, though. Two cars ahead the driver was following the speed limit. That’s fine. On normal days, I follow the speed limit, too. But this wasn’t a normal day. I was chasing a goal! I wanted to be free, unfettered, able to lay into the accelerator. Because the driver was traveling the speed limit, it didn’t bother me much, but I confess to getting a little antsy.
I turned onto Gribble Road at 6:58. I had less than two minutes left to realize my dream. It was doable. To my delight, there was no traffic. Here I committed the gravest driving sin of the trip, flying down the center of this narrow country road at 80mph. The clock turned 6:59 just before the Kayas’ house. I knew my work was cut out for me.
I turned onto Oglesby and floored it. Again: no traffic. I flew past the chicken farm — 6:59. I flew past Mom’s house — 6:59. I flew past the Carlsons’ — 6:59. I had it! I had it! I was going to make the trip in 25 minutes! But then, seconds before I turned into the driveway, the clock flipped to 7:00.
My goal of making my commute in 25 minutes remains unfulfilled. I came close. A couple of little things held me back. If only I’d realized at the start of the trip that a record was possible! I could have picked up my speed on River Road. I could have stayed closer to my cutters on the highway. I could have used my secret nuclear arsenal to destroy the cars in front of me coming out of Canby…
Ah well — maybe next time.
(Note for picky readers: Yes, I realize that what I’m actually describing is an attempt to make the drive in 25:59 or less. That’s fine. My definition of 25 minutes in this case is loose, and only makes use of the starting and ending times on the dashboard clock. It’s a small intellectual conceit I allow myself.)
Updated: 22 March 2007