I was a bit of an oddity among my work peers when I moved home to Drogheda, Co Louth on the birth of my first child in 1999.
At the time, we had been renting an apartment on Dublin’s North Great Georges Street, a leisurely 10-minute walk from The Irish Times. So the move required some pretty radical lifestyle changes.
My son is now nearly finished secondary school, has two brothers and in the intervening 17 or so years I have spent a large chunk of my life trapped on a train carriage.
I worked out recently that I have spent about 7,000 hours, or almost an entire year, on a train.
To people who are fortunate enough to have acquired a house in the capital, it might seem like a terrible chore to have to commute a long distance to work; and it can certainly have its drawbacks and minor annoyances.
Impromptu drinks become episodes that need to be planned weeks in advance, for example, and keeping an eye out for the last train home often makes the whole thing more trouble than it’s worth.
Leaving the office at 6pm means getting home with little time to spare before 8pm and leaving the house at 7.30am might get you into work for about 9am – all things going to plan. Commuters can subtract a number of hours each day of their working lives and dedicate them to travel.
The real cost of commuting are these lost hours that could otherwise be spent with family, friends, just being at home after work, cooking a dinner, attending a class, walking the poor old dog, deciding to do a bit of living after work.
For most commuters with families, particularly where both parents work, Monday to Friday is a write-off in terms of quality time. Leave in the dark, come home in the dark, eat something easy and quick, put the kids to bed, go to bed. Do it all over again.Weekends are given over to catching up with housework.
Factor in the headaches involved in arranging to get the kids to football training, music lessons or a play date when you are an hour and a half from home, as well as the financial cost of travel and parking, and the prospect of commuting is not a pretty one.
The funny thing, however, is that the bit where you are actually on the train or bus is the most pleasant. Plug in your earphones, stick on the radio or some music – or indeed call up The Irish Times on your phone – and what you have is a little bit of “me” time.
It is the least a regular commuter deserves.