Arbitrage In The Suburbs

I woke up this morning and decided to give myself a major treat: I was going out for a specialty coffee. Why? I had a Starbucks reward that I’d been sitting on for over 6 weeks and it was about to expire. So, I decided that this is a perfect opportunity for a treat. I lazily checked Twitter and my favourite bloggers on my smartphone and, when I was good and ready, I rolled out of bed, gathered by laptop and the book I’m reading and headed out the door.

I used the unusual opportunity to be out and about to choose a different location. I decided to drive about 15 minutes to go to a part of town I never visit. What a frivolous choiceF2P's being loosie goosie with her resources!

The drive over was fantastic. I listened to a radio station I never listen to anymore and I enjoyed exploring a newwell, to me at leastpart of town.

Once at the well-known coffee chain, I chose a spot in the near-empty parking lot, took my place in the very short line, and soon had my choice of tables—a benefit of showing up at a coffee shop in the suburbs at 8am on a weekday.

I knew this outing would be fun, a nice change of pace, but I didn't realize it would affect me as much as it did.

I felt how different life is now.

I know I’m not operating according to the norm now, but this time it was more than knowing this fact. I really felt it.

By going against the grain, I:

  • Considered what used to be a daily occurrence as a special treat to be thoroughly enjoyed.
  • Took the time to enjoy the whole experience of driving and checking out the sights.
  • Avoided the stress usually associated with the experience by purposefully selecting a time and place that would be the opposite of the “main stream”…of traffic at least—Starbucks is hardly off the beaten path. ;)

I recognized that feeling. It was what I used to feel when I would go away on vacation. Little waiting time, less stress, and less going on overall, which made it much easier to be in the moment and really take it all in. It hit me how powerful it is to be able to feel that way every day. 

I also felt how wrong it all is.

I also felt the tremendous waste brought about by what is “normal”. There was so much time and fuel spent in cars going the opposite way, many of them carrying only one passenger, and much of it bumper to bumper. Some of that total time and fuel was even being wasted in long lineups at fast food drive thrus. I couldn’t help but think there was nothing “convenient” about it. Convenience is often times a mere illusion. Do services really make life more convenient, or more complicated because we think we need them?

Then there was all the empty space once I go to the suburbs, a virtual daytime wasteland. Parking lots, stores, parks…all empty during a beautiful part of the day. All irrefutable evidence that the way we live and work makes poor use of real estate and road infrastructure.

We waste SO much by not living where we work. Maybe we’ll change, but somehow, I don’t think we’ll be waking up anytime soon. The cost of living this way just isn’t high enough yet.

This little outing, which I thought would just be fun, has made me reconsider how I spend some of my days. I think I'll plan to be out and about in the "land of plenty" that is the suburbs more often to take advantage of the resources everyone runs away from as they head to work. Well, at least when I have a free coffee offer about to expire or want to have a park all to myself for a bit. Luckily, the options are plentiful. I will change one thing though...I'll be on my bike next time, given I have no traffic to worry about when going against the "flow" ;).

* * *

If you’ve made it this far, I’ll offer an extra treat: Could my experience get any better? Yes it could, and it did. I ran into a friend who was headed into work…her last day before retirement. She happened to stop in because she was running and errand across the street and noticed the coffee shop. Neither one of us had been to this location before. Coincidence? I think not.