in Daily Life, Geekiness

25 Minutes

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.)

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  1. Fun and games, J.D. I’m afraid I have become one of those slow drivers on Hwy. 170, as Tom can no doubt attest because he was behind me on the way back from Canby a little while ago. I’m kind of embarassed that I have become an old lady driver but I somehow feel safer that way. 😉

  2. Most disturbing thing about this post: that you actually know how often the Canby lights stop you per trip. Down the tenth. Disturbed to the point of bordering on OCD. Seek help. Soon…

  3. You will do it my friend. I will coach you and teach you the way of the force!
    I can’t tell you how many times I, too, have tested machine and time on those roads. Keep up the good work!

  4. I’ll bet you there’s another obsessive compulsive case out there in their Prius trying to break their miles/gallon record. Heaven forbid you get behind him on 99E.