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Traveling to the Obermann center

Topics/tags: Autobiographical, Obermann, short

This fall, I’m doing something that many working people do, but that I’ve generally avoided: I’m doing a long commute to work. One of the nice things about working in Grinnell is that it’s about a ten-minute walk from the front door of my house to my office and it’s perhaps five minutes if I decide to drive so that I have my car on campus [1]. Now, my commute is much longer: It’s usually about an hour from the front door of our house to exit 244, the exit for Iowa City.

Unfortunately, there’s construction between that exit and Iowa City and the traffic decisions they’ve made slow things down. (In particular, because they allow a left turn at the bridge for those going north, the light has to alternate between southbound traffic, northbound traffic, and bridge traffic. If it were me, I’d disallow left turns onto the bridge for northbound traffic and allow both southbound and northbound traffic to flow simultaneously.) So it’s another fifteen or so minutes from the exit to parking, perhaps better on some days.

One of the folks at the Center suggested that I take a geographically longer path that should be temporally shorter. My experience is that while the longer route has less traffic, the total time ends up being about the same.

What about parking? Fellows aren’t supposed to use the very small parking lot at the Obermann Center. There’s a fairly steep charge for using the UIowa parking structures [2]. Fortunately, the Obermann Center is on the outskirts of campus, so I’ve been parking in the nearby neighborhood. If I get in before 8 a.m., I can usually find parking about two-and-a-half or three-and-a-half blocks from the Center. By 8:15 a.m., it’s about two blocks more. I’ve managed to avoid getting here any later than that [3]. In any case, I park about the same distance from my Obermann office that I live from my home office.

Like many Iowa neighborhoods, the area around the Obermann center does not have broad enough streets to accommodate parking on both sides. Hence, they have alternate-side parking during the day [4]. In Grinnell, alternate-side parking is one side (West) on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday Friday and the other side on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. In Iowa City, alternate-side parking is one side on Even Days and one side on Odd Days. Although the number of parked cars on one side generally suggest which side is appropriate, I’ve found myself regularly asking myself for the date.

During the trip, I generally listen to NPR. I enjoy Morning Edition in the morning and All Things Considered in the afternoon. Well, enjoy may be the wrong term given the current political climate. But I appreciate the opportunity to keep up with the news.

Of course, the weather in Iowa does not always cooperate. I’ve driven through way too many rainstorms recently. I’m hoping that I don’t have to drive through too much snow. It’s Iowa, how much will it snow before the end of the semester? [5]

I love my office at Obermann. There are no distractions. If I turn off my email, and I often do, I can work much more productively than when I work at home or at my Grinnell office. But commuting? That’s something I’d prefer to give up. I’m glad to spend a semester with this commute, but I’m glad that I ended up with a job that gives me a much shorter commute. Grinnell requires some compromises, but having the short commute makes up for many of them.

Postscript: Traveling is only one letter removed from raveling which means the same thing as unraveling. I mention this only because I spent way too much time working on writing a Web development environment I called Web Raveler

[1] I accept that driving to campus is not always responsible. But there are times that I need to be prepared to leave campus quickly (e.g., if I’m planning to attend a high-school event or if I have to pick up groceries for the department or division). And there are times that I’m bringing too much to campus to carry it by hand.

[2] I believe it’s well established that I’m a cheapskate. And I’m a cheapskate even though I can likely use some of my Obermann funds to pay for the parking. I’d rather use them for, say, books.

[3] Yes, that does mean that I have to plan to leave home before 7 a.m. each day. I cope.

[4] Hmmm … If it’s only during the day, perhaps the streets are wide enough to accommodate parking on both sides. Rather, the rule exists to ensure that people don’t leave their cars parked for more than a day.

[5] I probably shouldn’t ask. It snowed six or so inches on October 31 during my first year at Grinnell.

Version 1.0 of 2018-09-26.