The Carpool Lane: What I wish I knew about commuting
When the University comes up short, I hope to fill at least some of the gaps in terms of lessons learned. So, if you’re pondering the change or even currently living it, here are some tidbits I’ve picked up in my short, yet eventful, time as a Trojan commuter. Regardless of what you take from this piece, I implore you to advocate for dedicated spaces and resources for those living quite a ways away.
Long term cost efficiency
While most college students have to bite the bullet with regards to books, groceries and other personal items in conjunction with housing costs, many commuters must also consider insurance, car repairs or public transport fees. Find ways to save a few bucks such as packing your own lunch or picking a favorite gas station to pop through — even if it’s a bit out of the USC scene. While this does mean that we have to go out of our way to make ends meet, the more we cut and jab from the cost of just getting ourselves onto campus, the more beneficial it is in the long run.
Map it out
Long-distance commuters, such as myself, know that this city can be a real pain in the ass. Even if you leave early, the Los Angeles roads and rails have a particular affinity to fuck you over. Among them are bus lines running down random streets, trains not stopping at their designated stops and traffic jamming as soon as you reach the on-ramp. However, everyone has their own secrets about making it to class on time. Whether it’s taking a sidestreet instead of the highway or sitting on a lucky seat to make the bus run faster, find your groove. Apps such as Waze, Google Maps, Apple Maps and Transit are super helpful in making your way across the city.
Like a freshman to their first class, leave early
However, stuff happens. Your car doesn’t start up; the windows need to defrost; traffic suddenly becomes heavier than usual; trains or buses get delayed. Whatever the case, I always book it out the front door after petting my dog and chugging down a glass of water. So, the best way to better your chances of getting to your 8 a.m. on time is simply, and unfortunately, to leave early in the morning. Everyone’s done it at one point or another, y’know?
Wrangle your schedule
But say you don’t dig my last two suggestions. I’d imagine that, maybe, you were new to this whole commuting thing for one. But, as a student, I have always been a proponent of stacking classes on certain days to avoid making a daily commute. Unfortunately, that plan has been foiled by the daily nature of the Daily Trojan’s paper production, so I have to make it here everyday one way or another. But, stacking classes on certain days and leaving work for those off days presents a nice balance commute-wise, knowing that you don’t have to make your way from home to work to school to work to home. Simplifying that commute is an essential key to a less stressful lifestyle.
Appreciate the smaller things in life
It is without question that commuting means a great deal of sacrifice. The commute can quickly get to your head. The daylong affairs that you might’ve shared with your friends when you lived close to them have disappeared. The FOMO that comes along with being an hour away from your friends settles in. So, maximize the time you spend on campus with the people you enjoy, but also find simple things that help the time pass — a hobby such as reading or binging shows, for instance.
Turn it up
While I often enjoy the natural ambience of making my way to and from Downtown, a good playlist helps to keep me sharp on the road. Similarly, Ryan’s Roses in the morning and the late ’80s mix on 94.7 the WAVE keep me in good company when I seem to have the road to myself. Personally, my K-pop playlist named “i can’t date a kpop idol, i’m a DT editor” is always a treat during the post production drive home.
Enjoy, but be conscious
Public transportation can be described like an improv, as characters pop stage left and right with unnecessary props and unknown dialogue. Listen to music, sure, but don’t be distracted by the sounds and instead focus on your surroundings. Driving, similarly, requires a great deal of focus and attention on the road. Don’t text and drive, period. For the drivers, remember, your car is your sanctuary, so take care of your ride. Because at least your car won’t break up with you over Zoom — twice.
Commute safely, besties.
Lois Angelo is a junior writing about the perks, downsides and necessities of the commuter lifestyle in his column, “The Carpool Lane.” He is also the managing editor at the Daily Trojan.