Monday, April 02, 2012

The Commute

I commute from Vancouver to Portland every day. It's 14.3 miles, and with no traffic it's a 20-minute drive. Portland and Vancouver are separated by the Columbia River, which means all routes between the two include a bridge. There are exactly 2 bridges connecting these cities--the next closest bridge is 45 miles away. 2 bridges. 7 lanes total.

So there is always traffic.

And every day as I sit in my car during this 40-minute drive, inching forward down I-5, I think to myself, I really should be doing something productive with all this time. And I'll start doing the math. 40 minutes each way, times 2 times a day, times 5 times a week = 6.7 hours. Which is 353 hours a year. That's like 23 seasons of TV. Or nine full work weeks. Or 7 times longer than I spent writing my thesis. I could get books on tape and finally finish Mockingjay. I could be catching up on the dozens of episodes of This American Life that have been filling up my iTunes. I could be chatting with family. Trying to figure out Derrida. Thinking about content for the press release I'm writing at work. I could be planning what I'll eat for dinner. My next Relief Society lesson. What I'll wear tomorrow.

Instead, I have memorized every word to Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger." And Katy Perry's "Part of Me." And Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain." And Train's "Drive By."

This weekend I thought I'd mix it up and create a driving playlist to listen to instead of the radio. This seemed like a good compromise between mindlessly singing along to the same five radio songs and actually doing something productive. Once or twice a year I create a playlist named with the date, and I add every song I feel like listening to that day. I do this mostly because it's so endearing to go back to, say, the "September 13, 2010" playlist and be reminded that I was obsessed with songs like "Calm Under the Waves," and "Nevermind Me," and that I had a little Dave Matthews Band revival with songs like  "The Space Between." So, on Saturday I create a "March 31, 2012" playlist and added everything I was in the mood for in my music library.

As I drove to work today, I was intensely fascinated by the version of me that had created this playlist a mere 48 hours earlier.

First, there were a ton of Chicago songs. The band from the 80s. Like "What Kind of Man Would I be?" and "Love Me Tomorrow." And lots of Lifehouse--the early 2000s stuff with really slow songs like "Simon," and "Everything." It also included "The Freshman," by the Verve Pipe. Celine Dion. Lots and lots of Snow Patrol. Some U2. Some DMB. Lots of Goo Goo Dolls. Some Dashboard Confessional. A few Joni Mitchell songs. And almost a whole Train album.

Aside from some Imogen Heap and Regina Spektor, it was like a perfect melding of high school and freshman year of college memories. Every song was a major jolt into the past. Dashboard's "Screaming Infidelities" takes me back to afternoons in May during my Senior year of high school, driving to Lacamas Lake with the windows down. Snow Patrol songs take me back to my oil painting class my freshman year of college when I would work for long uninterrupted hours on my assignments in the art studio and listen to my two Snow Patrol CDs on my discman. During eighth and ninth grade, I would sometimes fall asleep to the Chicago CD because I had borrowed it from my sister, and I felt cool knowing music that my sister owned. And my sister and I used to sing along to Train's "Meet Virginia." I have a very distinct memory of us driving south on 97th and "Meet Virginia" came on the radio. We were so excited, and we sang every word.

Every song on the playlist was intensely saturated with memories. And sure, my playlists often have lots of old music like the Goo Goo Dolls and Lifehouse. But generally they're made up of generic contemporary music like Imogen Heap or Rascall Flatts or the Glee Cast.

And I have no conclusion to this post because I'm still so intrigued by the state of mind that made me feel so in need of 91 songs of pure nostalgia. But the commute was delightfully unproductive.


Kim said...

Such classics! I often think about how productive I could be in the evenings since I'm not in school. And then I start watching another episode on hulu.

Elisa said...

I went through a major music-nostalgia phase recently. I put my iPod on shuffle for a few weeks and let the high school/college nostalgia wash over me. It was kind of great.

I also sort of have a commute to work (20-30 minutes each way), and I've started listening to books on tape. I LOVE it. I finished The Book Thief recently. This week I'm listening to general conference (because I was traveling all weekend). I'm surprised by how much I like it.

julie said...

I totally remember the Meet Virginia experience! I still have that song on my playlist for that very reason!