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February 13, 2014
I know I should walk to work, but I can’t leave my car behind

I live just a little more than a mile from work. It’s lovely to have so short a commute.

Yes, despite the small distance, commuting to work is still part of my daily routine. I have vowed on many occasions to change and walk — because I know it would be better for the air and for my health, among other things. But I can’t quite seem to kick the habit.

I’m not really sure how it came to this. I’m not a big car person. Never have been. My mom had to more or less force me to get my driver’s license. Even then, I preferred to walk. In my first years with the Transcript-Bulletin, I walked everywhere. I walked from the high school to work every other day, and on some occasions I even walked back to school for night classes at Utah State University – Tooele Regional Campus — a distance well over a mile. I found the walk enjoyable. I’d usually stop in the park for lunch.

I didn’t really start driving until after my first year of school at Brigham Young University, when I bought my first car. I worked at the Transcript-Bulletin that summer, and — thanks to what I like to think was some judicious financial planning on my part — found myself with an extra sum of money I could potentially spend on a car, should the right deal come along.

I still wasn’t planning to live and die by my car. I figured that having a car would enable me to visit home and friends more often, to take my pet guinea pigs back to school and on trips with me, and maybe make it easier to find a job in Provo. Entry-level jobs within walking distance of a college campus are in short supply. I continued walking as much as possible, and never even bothered to register for a campus parking permit that first year.

Sometime during my second year of car ownership, something changed. I got that good entry-level job I’d hoped for, and before long discovered I had become — dare I confess it — a commuter.

When I moved back to Tooele and had the happy opportunity to rent a little apartment just a few blocks from the office, I continued my daily habit of commuting. The thought that I could probably just walk to work never really crossed my mind.

Now, this is particularly shameful because I not only cover health and the environment for the Transcript-Bulletin, but I also minored in environmental science. I know exactly why and how my daily habit harms the environment and, by extension, my own health and the health of everyone around me.

Yet, this morning, I still got in my car and drove the 1.2 miles to work.

It’s amazing the number of excuses that cropped up once I really decided I wanted to do something about my bad habit. A few weeks ago, I dedicated a significant portion of my time to a four-part series on air pollution that I hoped would clear up a lot of questions I had heard residents ask about our air quality. After relearning what I already should have known, I told myself that this time, this time, I would really change. This time I would start walking to work.

And then Monday morning came, and it snowed. And then it got dark before I left the office. And then I was running late and didn’t have 20 minutes for a leisurely walk. Pretty soon I started with the justification as well — I needed my car for work, and there was just no way I could make this whole walking thing work.

Half-baked excuses aside, there’s really no good reason I should drive to work on a day-to-day basis. Ditching my car would significantly reduce my own contributions to our impending air problem, and it would also give me a chance to get a little more exercise into my day — thereby preventing me from becoming one of those obesity statistics I reported on last week.

It would also give me the chance to peruse Main Street on a regular basis, which would in turn help me become better acquainted with the community I serve. It would take a little longer to get to and from work each day, but it would also give me time to myself to think and ponder. That always used to be my favorite part of walking.

I will recommit. I will walk to work, starting tomorrow.

Oh wait. I have a meeting right after work in Salt Lake tomorrow. I’ll need my car.

I guess even when we know that the alternative would be an unconditionally, all-around better choice, change is still hard. We humans are such creatures of habit.

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