Neither snow, nor moose, nor gangbangers keep feds from the job

Monday - 9/9/2013, 2:00am EDT

When you go to work every day, do you need to keep your eyes peeled for gangbangers on the subway, or road blocks set up by moose?

Do shift changes at fish factories sometimes slow your commute? Ever been chased by a skunk in the line of duty (yours and his?) Do you have an unusually long daily trek to and from work? How does the boss feel about you wearing pajamas, or even less, at your workplace?

Just about everybody's got a commuting story whether they take the bus, train, drive or even walk to and from work. But federal workers — because of the size, diversity of jobs and geographical spread of federal operations — may take the commuter-tale cake.

When many people think of the federal government, they think Washington, D.C. But more than 80 percent of all feds live and work beyond the Beltway, from Puerto Rico to Sitka, Alaska. And they have stories that make our "Beltway Chronicles" seem lame and tame. For example:

Alicia lives on the north side of Anchorage where, she says, "traffic can be interesting" for a variety of reasons, including gridlock when moose take over the roads and stare down drivers.

Mindy said she lives in a "semi-rural area of Oregon on the dry side of the Cascades." She is a 12-minute drive, or 1 hour walk from work. In good weather, she hoofs it. "We don't have a shower at the office, so the feelings among colleagues about my strategy vary by the relative distances between my office and theirs!" She signed off Sometimes Smelly in Oregon.

Closer to home, a refugee from D.C. says he and the wife bought a house 97 miles away in Virginia's Northern Neck. "I drive 90 minutes to a park-and-ride, catch a commuter bus for another 90 minutes. Leave the house at 5 a.m., arrive at the office 8:15-8:30." Some days he stays at his mother-in-law's. So is it worth the commute? " It's a bit hectic ... but when I'm off work I always feel like I'm on vacation." G.J.

Viv in Tennessee says the chances of encountering a skunk family on the road "is a major incentive not to talk or text while driving." A close encounter with a skunk can stick with you for a long time.

Tony, from Guaynabo, says rush hour traffic in Puerto Rico can be fierce. "I live 30 miles from my office and it takes me an average of 75 minutes to get to work." That includes school drop-off time for the kids.

Chris C. works in Los Angeles, "but due to gang activity, crime, homelessness and the cost of rentals, I live in San Bernardino, 58 miles away." He said the morning drive is not so bad, "but going home is another story. I average 1 hour 40 minutes by car. The train takes an hour and 35 minutes. My apartment is 12 minutes from the station."

Although Alaska is by far the biggest state, Jeff says his job in Sitka doesn't present the usual commuter challenges. "Most days my commute is a 15-minute walk to work in the a.m, 15 minutes home for lunch, 15 minutes back then 15 at the end of the day." The hard part, he says, is when "the sidewalks get crowded because of shift changes at the fish-processing plants. Also I sometimes have to wait in line to get in my front door on Main Street when a cruise ship is in town." Tough!

Because of housing prices, many feds work in Washington but live in Baltimore. Also, some D.C. types work at Social Security's Woodlawn operation in Baltimore. But it can be a grind. "Thirty years ago, I did 134 miles a day roundtrip through D.C. and then Baltimore. On average, 4 hours per day. Almost killed me. I gave up a grade to get out of that situation." — Big D.

"Door to door (Sacramento-to-Stockton IRS) is about 40 minutes," says one happy commuter. "I've been studying Mandarin (CD set) in the mornings; helps me wake up physically and mentally." The rest was in Chinese!

Rich P. has a 5-hour daily commute, "provided there are no hiccups and delays." He drives from Culpepper, Va., takes a train and walks a mile to the Transportation Security Administration headquarters. So it's up in the morning at 4:20 and back home by 7:45 p.m. "It keeps my 'fun-meter' pegged out." You might want to get that checked out, Rich!


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

Botanically speaking, a tomato is actually a fruit — because it's the flowering part of the plant containing the seeds. However, the Supreme Court decided in an 1893 case, Nix v. Hedden, that a tomato would be taxed as a vegetable under an 1883 law governing tariffs on imported produce.

(Source: Today I Found Out)


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