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The long, unwinding road

I had a professor in college who lived in the dorm with us, one of several who did so. The idea was to create a communal atmosphere and let the teachers and students interact in a relaxed setting.

The professor and his family hosted dinners, trivia nights and had us in for snacks. It was an idea that put the professor not only closer to the students, but closer to his work as well.

Living within walking distance of his office, the professor seemed to have it made in regards to a commute. But this particular professor took a funny route to school - he got in his car and circled the campus a few times before arriving for class. Said he missed the time to unwind, listen to music and prepare for the day that a commute gave him.

For those of us who don't live minutes from work, it sounds like a crazy notion. Especially on days when the Interstate is backed up and the traffic reports are telling us about wrecks that will likely make us late for our first appointment. Where is the time to unwind in that?

But on those rare occasions when I've had a very short commute, I do appreciate some of that professor's sentiments. If you can get to work faster than you can finish a travel cup of coffee or two songs from your favorite CD, you haven't had enough time to unwind. The world is hurried enough; your morning coffee shouldn't be.

Technology has made for better commutes, too. Satellite radio gives you all kinds of options, from ESPN to Howard Stern to Willie's Place. And the ride home is a good time to catch up on phone calls, using the commute time to your advantage. Just be careful about texting, don't need any OMG reactions from your driving.

I can barely text while stationary, so that's not a problem for me. But I am guilty of looking around, checking out the different vanity plates, bumper stickers and college logos that dot the vehicles of my fellow commuters. Funny how a Gator sticker puts me in a more irritable mood than the buzz of my alarm clock.

But as long as I'm moving I'm usually happy. Which in this county means I'm usually not. There are few things more frustrating than sitting in dead-stopped traffic, and few better than being the last car to sneak through on one of those pesky left-hand lights that seem to stay green only a few seconds.

On those days when the traffic is moving, the radio playing, the coffee steaming and the mind relaxing, I don't mind my commute at all. But on those days when it's not, I think about that professor who got into his car when he didn't have to. And I wonder how such a lunatic ever got hired by my school.

Todd Cline can be reached via e-mail at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Wednesdays.