Commuting. On a list of life's most depressing activities this surely must be pretty close to the top.
If I could see a way to avoid it I'd take it, but as long as I have bills to pay I have to go to work which means finding the least annoying method of getting from A to B.
The current method of choice is by motorcycle and that has been the preferred option for some time now. The car became too frustrating because one of my biggest hates on the road is sitting in traffic that's either crawling or not moving at all, so I gradually shifted from using the bike occasionally to using it all the time because when you're riding a motorcycle there's no such thing as a traffic jam. But as we move closer to the winter I start to have worries about the really cold days when there's ice on the road, there's bugger all grip, and my fingertips go beyond cold and numb and move into the realm of physical pain. It wouldn't be the first time I'd pulled up at traffic lights, knocked it into neutral and leaned down to cuddle the engine just to get a little warmth into my fingers.
These are the days when an alternative needs to be considered, and that's where the real problem begins. The car is pretty much a no-no because the wife needs it most days, and I'm determined not to buy a second car again.
It's too far to cycle every day and when it's dark, wet, cold and miserable my life expectancy would be considerably shortened if I was to attempt it.
This leaves me with public transport. There isn't a railway station near enough for that to be a viable option, which means using a bus. Oh dear.
The obvious problem with bus travel is that it doesn't go exactly where you want to go when you want to go there which means a timetable that's guaranteed to not work for you, and a considerable walk at either end of the journey. Now I know I usually love a good walk, but when it involves going to or from work it sort of takes the shine off the experience.
Then we have the issue of sharing your personal space with all and sundry - often those who you'd cross the road to avoid if you saw them coming the other way. Pick a bus at just the wrong time and you can let yourself in for all manner of living nightmares. Single mums with screaming brats, anti-social phone users who believe the whole world needs to hear their conversation, the ignorant youths for whom the word 'personal' as in 'personal stereo' means nothing and generally being surrounded by the great unwashed are just some of the horrors that await the bus user. You're also guaranteed (unless you're lucky enough to travel with a friend) to have the seat next to you occupied by one of the following :-
1. A little old lady with a giant shopping trolley who takes an eternity to climb the steps into the bus, and spends a further two ice-ages fumbling in her purse for her bus pass before plonking beside you smelling of wee.
2. A Special Brew-enhanced social drop-out with a dog that spends the entire journey trying to sniff your crotch.
3. A terminally obese ugly fucker who crushes you against the window while at the same time taking up half the aisle.
4. Someone who smells like they've spent the day cleaning deep fat fryers in a very hot environment with no showers.
5. The local nutter who'll manage to hold a conversation with you even though you deliberately avoid saying anything or making eye contact. The other passengers will be smirking or laughing at your misfortune, secretly thankful that it's not their turn today.
It truly is a nightmare. Trapped in a big tin box with the cast of Fraggle Rock trying desperately to focus your mind on reading a book, listening to music or staring out of the window - anything but allowing yourself to acknowledge the pitiful situation you find yourself in.
I hate driving the car these days because it's too frustrating; even riding the bike can be a test of nerves but it's still preferable. But even though I fear the bus and the horrors it holds, I know that it's inevitable that at some point during the coming winter I will have no choice but to face it because no matter how awful an experience it may be, it's nevertheless preferable to death from hypothermia or sliding under an oncoming truck.