It seems that Mother Nature has decided that we, here in Minnesota, had it far too easy last year – and she needs to make up for it. We started off with no snow last Saturday, and then the Twin Cities Metro got snowfall ranging from 10-14 inches (we were at 14-15 at our house).
Thankfully it happened on a Sunday – or I would have had to miss a day of work. My commute is an hour on a GOOD day driving. I opted for transit (train + bus) on Monday and Tuesday to avoid some stress, but the trade off there is time. It took 2 hours to get home on Monday, and Tuesday was much worse: 2 hours to get into work, and 3.25 hours to get home. I missed the last train to my station, so Nate (a.k.a. Mr. Nest – like I said, I’m tired of being vague) had to come get me. Thankfully I managed to get pretty close to home. Anyway – my point is not to complain.
Long transit trips like this can be brutal. Sometimes you’re jammed into a bus so packed that you have to stand for 30+ minutes (I did this yesterday. On a side note: I find it very interesting that when I was 9 months pregnant I couldn’t get someone to offer me their seat to save my life, but Tuesday when I was carrying two bags I had four separate people offer to let me have their seat. Does that make zero sense to anyone else?), and sometimes you have to stand at the train station or bus stop for what seems like eons. If nothing else, you’re stuck in a bus or train seat for far too long.
- Gloves, Hat and Scarf. I highly recommend a scarf. For some reason a scarf is that little touch that makes a huge difference in terms of warmth – and please, wear a hat. Frozen ears are unpleasant.
- WINTER BOOTS. Yes, all capitals! Boots are very very essential. If you get stuck at a train station for 40 minutes, your normal shoes/boots will not suffice. Put your office shoes in your bag and pull on your boots. It’s a little extra to carry (which is annoying, I’ll admit) but you won’t regret it – I promise. I learned the hard way about boots two years ago. We had a big snowstorm followed by sub-zero temperatures and I headed to the train station as usual. I think it was actually 15-20 degrees below zero that day (including wind chill), and I didn’t have boots on. The train ended up being 45 minutes late, and I had to stand in sub-zero temperatures the entire time in just my office shoes. It was uncomfortable to say the least. So, long story short, wear your winter boots!
- Food/water. Have some energy bars/jerky/trail mix/whatever and a bottle of water stashed in your bag – just in case it’s looking like you won’t get dinner until 9pm.
- Hand lotion/chapstick. Cold + dry = chapped hands & lips.
- All your entertainment gear (see below)
- Extra sweatshirt or a fleece vest. I like to wear this as a layer of extra warmth under my jacket.
- Cash. Just in case.
How to keep your brain entertained:
1) Ipod/Smartphone: I used to use my Ipod until it died a slow agonizing death, and now I use my smartphone. It’s the single best source of distraction/entertainment while bus-riding. I have a few apps/strategies I use:
– Music – this one’s a no-brainer. Itunes, Google Music, whatever floats your boat.
– Audiobooks. I have a membership to Audible.com and I absolutely LOVE it! There are multiple perks to having audiobooks loaded on your device. First – no-hands-required entertainment. If you’re stuck standing, you can just put in your headphones and stick your device in your pocket to listen. (side note: I recommend these headphones. Best. Earbuds. Ever. Mine are the red color, but I think they have some new colors if that’s important to you. They have great sound quality, stay in your ears really well, and allow you to hear ambient noises unlike most headphones. They come with a nice carrying pouch too!) Audiobooks are also great if you get motion sickness because there tends to be alot more bumping and jolting on the bus when the roads are iffy. I tend to get tired of my music, so audiobooks are a lifesaver for me.
– Kindle app. Like a mini-Kindle. Awesome – and you can download books on the go. Love! Also, Amazon and Audible just came out with Whispersync. If you have the same book in both Audio and Kindle format – Whispersync connects the two and saves your place in both so you can switch from audio to visual and vice versa anytime you want. Way cool! You can’t do it with all books yet, but quite a few!
– Google Reader. I have a pretty ridiculous blogroll (I may be addicted), so I love pulling up my blogs on the GReader app during my commute.
– Pinterest. Ah, the glorious time waster that it is. Great app for browsing while listening to music or an audiobook!
– Temple Run. Careful: this game is addicting.
2) Book/E-reader. Good solid paper books are an old standby for me, and always great! Sometimes they take up a lot of space, though, so I got a Kindle and it’s quite possibly the best thing ever. I can read any of my downloaded books, play a game or watch any of my downloaded movies. It’s wonderful.
3) Anything you really need to get done – if you can. I take a commuter train for a good portion of my commute, and it’s nice enough that it has tables – so I can bring my Christmas cards and address them as I roll along, or write up my grocery list/menu plan (that doesn’t require a table), etc.
- Make sure to use the restroom right before you leave, and try not to chug a giant bottle of water in the last hour of work. Avoid coffee too. Bus stops and train stations are minimalist and don’t have restrooms, and regular transit buses don’t have them either. You may well end up hurrying for a connection with no time to find a restroom either.