26 February 2009

To work and back

Gone are the days when the majority of people worked within walking distance of their homes. These days most people's working lives also entail a fair share of travelling time.

Gone are the days when the majority of people worked within walking distance of their homes. These days most people's working lives also entail a fair share of travelling time – either on public transport, in an own car or in a lift club.

So how do you get to work and back in one piece?

Train trauma. Trains are usually quite safe during peak hours, but they could pose all sorts of dangers during off-peak times. When travelling by train, remove expensive jewellery and your watch, don't carry much cash with you, and switch off your cellphone. There's no point in attracting attention for the wrong reasons. Think twice about carrying your laptop – you may be changing yourself into an ideal mugging target. Also check who gets on and off during quieter times and steer clear of deserted subways and parking lots. If you're going to work late, it might be an idea to get someone to fetch rather than do the train thing.

Lift club chaos. Lift clubs can be very convenient – depending on who is in them. Don't travel with someone who is always late, whose driving skills are scary, whose car might have been the car of the year in 1967, or who doesn't live all that close by. Choose your travelling companions with care. Who feels like starting every day with a chain-smoker or a compulsive chatterbox?

Bus bonanza. Buses may be slow, but generally their accident rates are lower than those for taxis. Buses are also relatively cheap, especially if you buy monthly or weekly tickets. Because there is a driver on board, they are also relatively safe. Well, safer than trains anyway. If you are travelling alone, try and get a seat on the bottom deck, where you can see the driver. Don't carry obvious valuables with you. Someone might follow you when you get off the bus.

Taxi tizz. Large taxis carrying fifteen or more passengers have become an integral part of commuting in South Africa. Choose a taxi driver you know and travel with that person regularly. Don't carry valuables or lots of cash and be careful when you alight at taxi ranks. If a taxi has smooth tyres, the driver looks like a frustrated stuntman, or the taxi looks in general disrepair, don't take it. Never get into a taxi if you are the only passenger, especially if you are a woman.

Car cadenza. Many people travel to work by car on their own – one only has to look at the morning traffic to see how true this is. This is expensive, as one person carries the petrol costs, but it is also convenient, as you don't have to consider others and can stop off at the supermarket on your way home. Try and negotiate working hours that would enable you to miss peak hour traffic every day. Sitting in a traffic jam is not only bad for your nerves, but the exhaust fumes are also not doing your lungs a favour. Learn to be patient as a road rage incident could leave you seriously injured.

Walking wonder. Getting a bit of exercise before and after work is a good idea – even if it is 800 metres from the train station. Count yourself lucky if you're within walking distance from work. See it as a bit of a daily cardiovascular workout. Just be aware of who is also walking in the area, especially very early in the morning. Pepper spray may not be a bad idea.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated February 2009)


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