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Simonson Says: Adventures in commuting (without a car)

Weber State students are no strangers to commuting. Some of you drive down here and back from Salt Lake every day, or even farther. Others take public transit every day.

If you fall into the latter category, you probably do this to save gas money, or to be environmentally friendly. I, however, am one of the rare wretches who does it because I don’t even own a car.

During the school year, this isn’t so bad. It mainly consists of brief bus rides and a lot of carpooling. But I’m currently doing a summer internship in downtown Salt Lake, which involves an hour each way on the FrontRunner every day.

I used to love taking the FrontRunner. It was comfortable and relaxing with a nice view. A few years and approximately 2,050 round trips later, though, the charm is starting to wear off. I still love the FrontRunner for allowing car-less weirdos like me to get so many places in a relatively short time and, if you’re a student, for free. It’s just that, when you’re doing it as a daily necessity instead of recreational day trips, that 50 minutes starts to feel amazingly like 50 hours.

The best time to get on at the Ogden station is in the morning, when you get your pick of a seat. You choose one of the window seats, with a table and facing forward, and set up camp with a book, notebook, water bottle and perhaps makeup kit because you didn’t want to get up early enough to do it at home. A little girl asks in a stage whisper, “Dad, why’s that lady putting makeup on?” and you put it away, wishing you brought a paper towel and a bottle of old water dregs so you could wash the foundation off your fingers. You start to read, then put the book down to enjoy the dewy early-morning view as the train starts to move. You pass birds you’ve never seen in the wild before, like pheasants with sleek emerald heads and something that looks like a stork, as well as roadkill you never wished to see before, like decapitated skunks, deer in every possible stage of the decomposition process, and a dog that, disturbingly, has been there a month and not visibly begun to decay.

When your eyelids inevitably start to leaden and you can’t keep them open, you desperately pop an energy pill, because leaning your head back one inch against the rigidly upright headrest provides about as much relief for your need to sleep as faceplanting into the table would.

That sleepiness, at the end of the day when you get back on to go home, has been replaced by the mere absence of energy, but don’t worry, it will soon be replaced by something worse. When you get on during rush hour, at first you’re just grateful to find a seat. You might’ve been hoping for a private seat where you could enjoy your chocolate cheesecake cup as a reward for your eternity of a workday without feeling like you’re being judged, but that can wait. At least you have a seat.

Soon you realize that being a seat removed from the window, next to a poker-faced stranger pretending you’re not taking up the space their bag was supposed to have, and facing the opposite direction the train is heading, is a recipe for disaster, and the secret ingredient was that sushi you had as a late lunch (it turns out sushi just was not meant to be prepared at a fast-food tempo; sorry, City Creek Center food court). You haven’t known motion sickness until you’ve been in this woebegone seat. You try to read just to pass the time — big mistake. You can only do it for a minute at a time before it increases your carsickness to an unbearable degree. You try to look out the window, but your stoic travel companion’s head is in the way, and it’s an unspoken but adamant rule on FrontRunner that you must not even appear to be trying to make eye contact with the stranger you’ve imposed your presence on.

As your stomach churns, you think that surely you can’t take another minute. Surely you’ve already been on for an hour, right? Then you pull into . . . Woods Cross Station. One stop down, five to go. You begin to think, almost longingly, of what hell must be like.

Bless you, FrontRunner. I mean that, I really do. It’s not your fault you’re so convenient that you carry approximately the cargo size of an immigration ship from famine-era Ireland at 5 p.m. every day, or that you’re so fast you kill more deer per day than made up the entire cast of “Bambi.” I love taking the FrontRunner when it’s for a leisurely day trip, and I’m so grateful it’s there for losers like me who can’t drive. I just have one question, FrontRunner: Seriously, does the Pleasant View stop even exist?

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