It’s almost a year since our last ClickNwork blog post. Pitiful, I know.
There is much we want to tell you about how ClickNwork is changing, but we want to do it with a bit more of a fanfare when we’re a little closer to the launch.
Instead, I want to talk about commuting or rather, if you work from home, not commuting.
I live in England, a country of many advantages and joys, but also one of a number of frustrating and annoying traits.
We have, for example, a temperate climate largely free of the elemental extremes of some countries, so when the weather does turn a little vicious, as it did earlier this week, infrastructure and human will seems to turn to a pathetic mush.
It was no surprise, therefore, when Hurricane St. Jude, which ripped through the country on Sunday night and Monday morning, completely disrupted people’s travel plans, and especially the usual Monday morning commute. Trees uprooted and deposited on train lines quite understandably rendered many tracks unusable until cleared, and that can take a while. The roads fared little better.
I can remember the days, when commuting to London from various outposts, of anticipating disruptions (typically caused by snow, which always seemed to baffle the hell out of what was then called British Rail), by setting off even earlier to maximize my chances of getting to work, even if it took all day to do so.
On one occasion, living about 30 miles outside London in a dire place called Chatham, in Kent, I set off early in the snow, making my way to Chatham rail station for the early o’clock train to Victoria. We made it a few miles down the line to Rochester, and out the other side, before grinding to a halt a short hop from Sole Street, where we sat (or, in my case, stood) for seven hours in a packed train while various BR operatives tried to free the wheels of ice with large jemmy bars. We, meanwhile, entertained ourselves by singing to them through the windows the Ian Drury and the Blockheads song “Hit me with Your Rhythm Stick” (in the charts at the time, in 1978), swapping unfinished crosswords and, in our part of the train, breaking in to the annoyingly locked buffet kiosk looking for anything to eat or drink.
We found only cold drinks – including beer – and, in true commuting spirit, even left the money to pay for them.
Attempts to disembark attracted shouts of “get back in or you’ll be electrocuted”, because they hadn’t switched off the electricity, just in case they might eventually free the wheels.
After the seven hours or so, and several failed attempts to get a diesel engine to us to pull us along to the Sole Street platforms, they switched the power off and invited us to walk the half mile or so along the line to the station.
A train full of cold, bitter, rather angry commuters then piled in the imaginatively named Railway Inn, right outside the station, to wait comforted by a tipple of choice for the promised train to take us back down the line and home.
I apologise for the long discourse, but this is one of the top commuting events that always comes to mind when I celebrate the fact that I no longer have to do that.
Many of the other commuting events – like standing on cold, wet and windy platforms waiting forlornly for trains that might not even exist, or cramming in to overfull tube trains with what seems like a million other wet and steaming travellers – just sort of blend together in a sort of unpleasant, malodorous memory sump.
It’s not attractive, I know, but I cannot prevent myself from enjoying a certain schadenfreude when seeing TV pictures of thoroughly miserable commuters beset by the fallout from the British weather.
So I sit in my garden office, a short five-second commute from the house and within spitting distance of the kitchen kettle, happy to be away from all that.
And then, just to add the cherry on the cake, there was this article in the New York Times that talked about how commuters waste time in cars when they might otherwise be socializing or, perhaps more importantly, exercising and becoming healthier. The article cites a number of studies that indicate that the further your commute the less healthy you are likely to be (in terms of blood pressure, stress, heart disease, cholesterol…) – e.g., a short commute might be possible on a bike or on foot.
And it’s true. My lack of daily commute (ignoring the five second trip across the patio) means I now have much more time for a daily routine of intensive exercise and an exhausting social whirl. It’s just the inclination that I’m missing!
Anyway, I must go. I have to pop to the kitchen to put the kettle on. Coffee breaks wait for no man!