Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Room of One's Own, On Wheels

Every day I think, "Today is the day I take the train to work" to my J.O.B. 30 miles away. Every day I leave the house just a little too late to both catch the train and the shuttle from the train to my workplace in order to arrive on time. Driving might or might not get me at my desk any earlier...but it might. After six months of this daily delusion, of checking for my train ticket (still there, still only 2 out of 10 punches punched) and failing to use it, I'm finally admitting that I choose, I choose to sit in some of the country's worst rush-hour traffic, idling away my time and gasoline and ozone layer, ratcheting up that scary-high odometer reading, day after everlovin' day.

All I want is to be with my child, the one from whom I'm separated now 12+ hours/day because we need the income and benefits. (I miss my stepkid, too, yet while parental presence is critically important with a teen, so is allowing them their space. Also, his Dad is on-hand, more appropriate for talking about girls and shaving tutorials.) I cry every Monday for the duration of my commute, it's so painful that I can't do what ought to be my primary job, the only job that matters, except around the edges of the day... yet driving usually extends this separation from my children. This is crazy, right?

But then I understood: My car is the only place that's all mine (most of the time). Anywhere. My office at work is a cubicle. No, that's an exaggeration: It's a right angle. I share a cubicle. My home office is the corner of the kitchen. Another whole 90-degrees all to myself. It's the farthest corner from the stove, but if the wind is right and the wooden stirring spoon is cocked just so, a pasta sauce splatter across my computer screen is not improbable.

Our house is small and all on one level. The only potential Virginia Woolf turf is the playhouse above the chicken coop, and it's hard to write in a place where the ceiling's too low for a person over 4' 5" to comfortably sit upright.

Our bathroom doors don't have locks. My kid is four.

Me: I'd like privacy, please.
Her: Okay.
Me: Um, why are you still here?
Her: For privacy company!

My car is not exactly a destination. It isn't an on-the-go entertainment center, or an all-terrain overstuffed lounge chair, like some of the vehicles with which I share the interstate. It features an old-school AM/FM radio, all the preset buttons preset to our region's plethora of public radio (WNYC on the way to work, WSHU on the way home and  WFUV the rest of the time). The CD player became mysteriously jammed a couple years back. The shock absorbers don't.  The locks and windows have to be clicked and cranked by hand. It loses hubcaps like a gradeschooler loses teeth. But the heat and A/C work. It reliably starts and stays started. It's paid for. It's fairly clean. It is comfortable enough while stationary for a nap or meditation or to use my laptop when parked in a wifi spot.

I might go sit in it right now, in the driveway, actually. As I'm typing my stepkid, whose bedroom shares a wall with the kitchen, is waging battle with zombies or an opposing football team or some other video game enemy. My husband is standing at the island behind me, eating his lunch. My daughter has interrupted me three times...for kisses. Break my heart, already. I'm taking the train on Monday, I mean it. Even if it means crying in public (transportation).


Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr