Monday, April 27, 2009

The reluctant commuter.

A Belgian who is the owner of a company near Brussels, told me once, “When I interview someone for a position in my company, I ask him how far away from my office he lives. If I find that he has to commute more than 15 minutes, I tell him that it won’t work out. He should either spend time at the office, or with his family at home. No point in wasting time in between”.

While in Heslinki once, I attended a farewell party for a colleague who had resigned. In her parting speech, she explained that the reason she was quitting was that she had to commute 25 minutes one way and this was like wasting 8% of the time that she was awake. She had found a job in a smaller town where her office was just 5 minutes away.

I agree with them.All my life, I have managed to live fairly close to my school/college/work place. Commuting has never taken more than 30-45 minutes, whether by bus/cycle/scooter or car. Whenever I visit Mumbai or Delhi and find myself admiring the energy levels and vibrancy of these cities, I quickly think of the commuting that most of my colleagues out there have to put with. Then I thank my stars that I don’t have to endure such torture.

Jonah Lehrer quotes from his own column in Seed magazine and makes me feel even better:

"A few years ago, the Swiss economists Bruno Frey and Alois Stutzer announced the discovery of a new human foible, which they called "the commuters paradox". They found that, when people are choosing where to live, they consistently underestimate the pain of a long commute. This leads people to mistakenly believe that the McMansion in the suburbs, with its extra bedroom and sprawling lawn, will make them happier, even though it might force them to drive an additional forty-five minutes to work. It turns out, however, that traffic is torture, and the big house isn't worth it. According to the calculations of Frey and Stutzer, a person with a one-hour commute has to earn 40 percent more money to be as satisfied with life as someone who walks to the office. The reason long commutes make us so unhappy is that the flow of traffic is inherently unpredictable. As a result, we never adapt to the suffering of rush hour. (Ironically, if traffic was always bad, and not just usually bad, it would be easier to deal with.) As the Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert notes, "Driving in traffic is a different kind of hell every day."


8 comments:

Anjana R said...

the Americans need to see this. :)

Mambalam Mani said...

an amrigan friend i know once remarked countries like India and china are major culprits in greenhouse gases emission and should stop pointing at amrigaa.
he drives 1hr to office daily in his pickup truck

Balajisblog said...

Raj - the lengths you go to to rationalize your decision to live within 1 km radius of tank is amazing ! How do you get to lay your hands on such magazines ( Seed )...? !...

mschillpill said...

Nice point of view. And man! Have you been lucky.

Raj said...

Anjana, Mambalam Mani : These Americans/Amrigans were the ones who invented the suburbs.

Balaji: Not guilty. I have subscribed to the RSS feed of Jonah's blog, and he has referred to his article in "Seed".

mschillpill: Yes, I have been, so far.

Anonymous said...

If people earned enough to rent homes near business districts maybe your argument deserves some merit.

here it is!!!! said...

air miles don't count? :)

Raj said...

anon, it's a trade off. I may rent a small house close to my office, while someone may rent a huge place in the suburbs at the same price and commute the extra distance.