A long commute ups chances of breakdown

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Consider this the obligatory "here's-how-the-new-job-is-going" column. We'll get back to the juicy stuff next week.

HE SAID: Faithful readers of this column know about Little Red.

She's my 1994 Ford Probe. More than 170,000 miles.

Runs a little rougher than she used to. If her engine was a speaking voice, she'd sound like Rosanne Barr.

She used to sound more like Janis Joplin -- not exactly smooth, but certainly a bit more lively.

It's true that my days are numbered with Little Red. A few months at my new newspaper job in St. Louis, and perhaps we can plunk down a down payment for some new wheels.

For the last two weeks, Red has taken me to St. Louis and back. Only once was there a hiccup. Her oil gauge was doing funny things, but I simply pulled over, gave her a drink of 10W30, and off we went.

It takes a great deal of faith to hop in that car every day. To silence the worry, I turn to a new trusty friend: the Book on Tape.

On a couple of trips, John Rooney and Mike Shannon kept me company. They're the broadcasters for the St. Louis Cardinals. And of course Callie, my cute and talented wife, kept me company by providing lots of snacks for me to enjoy on my commute and at my new office.

The traffic isn't that bad. I never arrive or depart during rush hour. St. Louis traffic isn't that much different from Cape traffic. A few more lanes in some places. But it's kind of like driving down William or Kingshighway.

The daily journeys have been long but manageable. I've been doing a lot of thinking. I've come up with a book idea. Sometimes I shut off the radio and build characters and grow storylines.

I leave for the office on most days about 12:30 p.m. I usually arrive home around 11 p.m. When I was the news editor at the Missourian, I'd usually work from around 1:30 to 12:30. It's just the way it is when you're in middle management at a small paper.

At my new job, I work fewer hours and have fewer responsibilities. Fewer people rely on me. Nobody comes to me for advice. Few people even know who I am.

I'm learning a complicated computer system, two of them actually. I'm just another guy now, which is fine … for now.

I'm looking forward to the day when I can afford a new car, when we can finish our attic remodeling project, sell our house and move closer to the Gateway City.

Until then, stories will keep me company.

SHE SAID: What Bob doesn't talk about is how he drove about 30 minutes in the wrong direction on his way home from St. Louis one night in his first week of work.

That made me feel pretty good, because usually I'm the one who gets lost.

There are other downsides to the new job as well -- like the fact that Bob can't sneak away from work to catch an inning or two.

But there's also something thrilling about starting fresh with new people in a new environment.

I remember when I started at the Southeast Missourian four years ago, I was sure I could never keep up with the pace here. That's the stage Bob is at right now.

And the stage I'm at? We've got to get rid of that stupid car.

cmiller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 128

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