I guess life could be a lot worse. I am working. A lot of people aren’t, and while I have to commute 10 miles round trip to work, it’s nothing what other people are in this area. Here in the Hampton Roads area, it’s nothing to have a round trip of 50, 100 miles or more to a job; people commute here from North Carolina and the metropolitan area is 70 miles in any one direction. If you are resorting to taking the bus to get to work it could be 2 to 3 hours each way so it is no surprise that the automobile is the primary way to get around.
But a simple 10 mile round trip commute is 50 or more miles a week. If I go to one of the malls in another city, like Norfolk or Virginia Beach it’s either 8 miles or 17 miles, respectively. Some malls I don’t even go to, like Patrick Henry in Newport News which is 31 miles away or the outlet mall which is 50 miles out. What I can get to I can’t even afford, like MacArthur in downtown Norfolk; 4 miles, which is almost walking distance, is overpriced and carries labels I don’t need, like Hugo Boss.
Am I cutting back on clothing for those reasons? Um, yeah. What is practical is for me to go to one of two malls here, one of which is “ghetto”, for all practical reasons, to the point that some would be afraid to walk through there the other which the architecture is a lot more interesting than the actual clothing they sell. But it’s built into a hill so it sort of reminds me of the malls back home.
When I used to go to the outlet mall and realized that I was spending what was then $10 on gas just to get out there and back I figured it may be in my best interests to let that go. Some of what they sold I could find in the stores in town anyway. If I think about working one of the jobs in Newport News, like say for Verizon, I have to take into consideration that it could take an hour and a half to get home, when you figure in traffic. That’s easily $7 a day, or $42 or more a week just to get there and back. If you have an SUV with lousy gas mileage that’s easily $90 a week.
The metro is entirely too large, and I can safely assume that it is for you to if you live in suburbia and are commuting into town wherever you live. Some of you are blessed with nice public transportation systems, others are still in the process of having that extension of the transportation infrastructure built. I don’t have to get onto a 12 lane highway and sit in bumper to bumper traffic just to detour onto already overcrowded arterial roads but some of my coworkers in other cities do it every day.
I thought it was cool when I moved here because it was something I always saw about on someone else’s news and that was someone else’s problem. If it took 20 minutes to get somewhere that was a big deal, those were better days somehow. Yet I would use the extra gas I didn’t need to go and do other things I don’t do as often here, so I was coming out about the same. For example I had a cushy job where I went to the department store like every single day, but even with an hour lunch here, by the time I spend 15 minutes in traffic and another 10 parking it really isn’t worth my time.
If gas exceeds $4 a gallon at worst I’ll be paying like 2% of my income towards transportation. But how much wear and tear on my automobile am I putting on it living here? I’ve already amassed roughly 40,000 miles a year and I don’t leave town that often. Gas prices are around $3.30 a gallon. I’ve been known to put one or two dollars in my tank when the light comes on, which will get me to work or back home, just for the light to come on again when I reach my destination.
My real issue isn’t the price of gas, is that half of my income is going to live in a neighborhood where a lot of the residents don’t even work. I’m worried about getting evicted and they’re worried about the police; I haven’t had any problems but I could imagine perhaps someone else is. Once I’ve paid the utilities, the car payment and car insurance, if and when I carry it I might have $50 for clothing and entertainment. That will get you a $5 shirt discounted at AJ Wright and some blank CDs or maybe a used movie from a trading store. If you’re smart you’ll spend $100 for groceries instead of taking advantage of the restaurants in the area, which is how I came to the $50 figure …