Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The many intricacies of commuting

Allright, we have been commuting now for over a week and we have both had variations in our commutes. Josh carpooled with someone last week which worked out nicely and I only had to go a couple stops on the train to my office. Sounds simple, right? WRONG! There are so many aspects of commuting that are unglamourous, tedious, exhausting, etc! Whew!

Last week on my first day of work, I walked out of the flat in my pretty little Enzo flats (shoes, for those of you of the male persuasion)...and I thought I was thinking ahead! I had already learned that they have these bumps on the ground where the sidewalks meet the roads and at the edges of train platforms, etc. They are killer on your ankles in a pair of heels (already learned that the hard way in March while visiting...nearly lost it a couple times). There are also tons of stairs, "mind the gaps", long walkways, escalators, worn sidewalks....

So, I felt good heading off in my sensible shoes. To make a long story short, after wondering around Gatwick airport, going to the wrong terminal first and then finally finding my way out and after a good 15 minute walk to the office....I had a nice blister developing. At that moment, I realized that all those people wearing suits and tennis shoes (or a casual shoe equivalent) had the right idea. I've been commuting in my tennis shoes since. Lesson #1.

Lesson #2 is that people don't talk. You get on board and put you head into a book or newspaper or fiddle with your mobile phone or Ipod (Lesson #3 - own or bring one of these things). (Although one girl was putting on her makeup!).

Lesson #4. A long commute will replace your daily workout. This week, I have been commuting to central London - takes about an hour door-to-door. But, whew - it can be exhausting (and brutal if you are in the wrong shoes)! Let me try to recreate my commute:

Walk to train station. Through turnstiles. Up stairs. Up stairs. Get on train (Redhill is about the last stop on the way in to London where you can guarantee that you will get a seat!). Get off train (from this point on always assume that I am surrounded on all sides by people - herding cattle will give you a visual). Walk length of about 6 railcars. Walk across platform landing. Through turnstiles. Walk across London Victoria station (a huge place by the way - dodging people as everyone is aggressively moving in all directions). Down stairs. Through turnstiles. Down 3-4 story escalator. Down some halls, up some stairs, down some stairs (you get the point). Get on the Tube (after making yourself a sardine and watching not to get either set of cheeks caught in the closing doors!). Hold on. Sweat. Get off tube. Walk down platform. Walk down halls, up stairs, down stairs (or something like that). Get on another tube line (again - sardine - and that is if you can even get on!). Hold on. Sweat some more. Get off tube. Walk down platform. Walk down halls, up some stairs. Up 3-4 story escalator (don't get caught on the left side or you will be expected to walk UP the escalator...that's the escalator fast lane!). Through turnstiles. Out into the world - hello city streets. (Still herding cattle) Walk down street watching for irregularities in sidewalks and trying not to get hit by a car as the crowd crosses the streets (and this is easier if you really know in which direction to look for oncoming cars!). Ah-ha! Client site! Down alley. Up the lift. Through three sets of doors (who built this building?!) Done.

I have been getting my exercise and this week Josh decided to take the trains to work. Epsom is almost due west of Redhill and the trains generally run north to south to feed London so going side-to-side is more complex. He has the option of going almost all the way to London, switching trains and then heading back out....or he can go west, get off a train and walk about 5-10 minutes to the neighbor train station and catch another train there. Unfortunately, the Epsom station is about a 15 minutes walk from his office. So, Jnoland has been adjusting to the mass transit commuting lifestyle as well.

The bright side - mass transit is awesome! It is fascinating to think that so many people are moving around in the greater London area every day! Kudos to the mass transit system here.

Although they have such a great mass transit system, over 90% of people own a car (rough number I heard somewhere, someone can challenge that if they like). Bikes are also popular and are used in conjunction with taking the trains or bus. We are working on getting a car here...currently only planning to have one.

And although using mass transit can be quite a challenge sometimes...it is nice to be able to sit and relax on your way to and from work (on the trains only...and not on trains any closer to London than we are). I have been reading a great little book Ashley and Ali bought me just before I left. I can't tell you the last time I read a fiction novel! (Admittedly, books I have picked up over the past couple of years have been business books or the like - informative books - crazy, I know).

So, Josh and I are adjusting well to the mass transit commuting culture. Although, we are anxious to get our own wheels! Redhill only has so much to see and do!


  1. Steph, I've been in Victoria Station and on the Tube so I know what you are talking about! It's huge and wild but also exhilarating when you realize that you can get around on your own! Lori

  2. My feet hurt for you! Not only that, you wore me out ! I need a nap! hahaha Hugs~ Kdm

  3. Steph,
    I am so glad to hear you and Josh have settled into the rigors of living "abroad". I sat here and cried reading your posts realizing how far away you are. Although I don't get to see you often, you really realize it when you are half way across the world. At least now I can follow your journey on the internet. Stay safe. We love you guys.

  4. I Don't envy that Commute! I should appreciate the 5 miles I drive. Talk to you soon,


  5. The trains/tubes kind of sound like the K-Lot busses at UK...but since you lived right by campus, you probably did get that grand experience. Luckily, yours is in a much more interesting locale. Hope you are enjoying the book. Lots of love. ~your sis