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Conservation tip: carry a book with you

book.jpgIn the midst of this interesting back and forth about public transportation, Michael O’Hare offers an easily overlooked tip for ensuring that you never have to wait a single moment for a train or a bus: carry a book with you at all times.

The essence of waiting is doing nothing while you sit in anticipation of some event. Waiting sucks. No one likes waiting, which is one reason why many people prefer cars to public transportation.

But if you’ve got a good book, you’re never waiting. You’re reading. While this might seem an obvious point, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. As a frequent subway rider, I can say from experience that a good book will almost magically shrink your commute time to zero. It is not at all uncommon for me to be disappointed when I finally reach my destination, because it means pulling my nose out of my reading.

Perhaps you prefer other diversions. Maybe you’re a crossword puzzler or a sudoku fan. I’m a bit suspicious of these activities, actually. However enjoyable you find them, they seem like time-fillers. They may make your wait more bearable, in much the way that radio makes your drive more bearable, but you’re still killing time. A good book offers just a whole different kind of enjoyment. But others may disagree.

This points up one of the larger problems with the supposed convenience of driving. Driving does move you around more quickly, but time spent in the car is guaranteed dead time (unless you’re on your phone, which you shouldn’t be). By using a book to eliminate the dead time from public transport, you shift the convenience equation considerably.

A related logic applies to bicycling and walking vs. driving. Bicycling and walking both generally take longer than driving, and so could be considered less convenient. But such a comparison ignores the fact that bicycling and walking are both inherently enjoyable leisure activities. Consider that every time you get on your bike or walk, you’re actually multi-tasking: exercising, recreating, and getting from point A to point B.

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