Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Adventures of Slugging

Going home from work, my foot rests heavy on the gas pedal. I push eighty miles per hour in the HOV lanes while being passed by people in a much bigger rush than me. The state troopers don’t mind the speed and neither do the hitchhikers, just so long as my car doesn’t break down, I don’t run out of gas and I keep the temperature at an even level.
Then we reach the last mile of our dedicated high occupancy lanes and have to merge from two down to one, then into the left lane of the dreaded Interstate 95. When traffic comes to a stand still, I shift the car to neutral, release a heavy sigh, turn down the music, then grab my phone to check my e-mail.
“I can’t believe you drive a stick-shift in this traffic,” says the passenger in the front seat, staring at my shifter like it’s a hideous beast.
This is something I hear frequently, and it’s something I have a generic response for.
“Oh, yeah. Special ordered this baby. Driving an automatic doesn’t give you the same control.” I return to checking my e-mail because I’ve had this conversation a million times and it’s lost the ability to hold my attention.
“Really? But doesn’t your foot get tired?”
Like I haven’t heard that one before. Twelve years of the same comments. People are so similar it's scary.
Laugh at funny e-mail received via twitter.
Wait fifteen minutes.
Turn music back on.
Get bored and desire more conversation. “Well, I guess it does get tired on occasion.”
Bold-faced liar. I hate myself for it, but that’s what they want to hear, so that’s what they get.
“I’d imagine. Bet it makes you wish you had a time machine.”
Time machine? “You mean teleportation?”
“Oh, yeah. Don’t you wish they’d invent it already?”
This is another conversation I’ve had a million times, but I give in. Another heavy sigh. “Yeah. But telecommuting can do the same thing and we have the technology for that, but employers are too afraid to manage their people. So we all suffer for it.”
This always gets a rise out of people…especially when they are manager-types.
“There is no way to monitor people when they work from home.” Standard response.
“No? Won’t you know if the work is getting done—at home or at work?”
“It’s not the same,” says defensive front seat passenger.
A quick glance in the rearview tells me either the back seat passenger enjoys my provoking nature or is listening to iPod. Let’s pretend this back seat passenger is pleased with my skills of debate.
Satisfaction fills me. “I’m not sure why not. People either do the work or they don’t.”
“I see what you mean.” Meaning, I don’t agree with you, but would like to change the subject. “Sure would like teleportation to be invented.”
Sigh. Dear Managers, we have the technology to change the traffic problems. We have the technology to improve people’s quality of life and have them home more often. We have the technology to reduce emissions from our smog creating vehicles (I drive a blue diesel so I don’t want to hear any complaints). We have everything we need to fix the problems, yet control is what motivates. Control to have bodies to manage. Control to have people to yell at face-to-face if necessary.
So instead of using our wonderful technology, we daydream about teleportation. Something that will never in our lifetimes provide us transportation to work.
Think about it.


  1. So true, Krystal.

    Although, to be fair, I never get anything done when I work at home.

  2. Anonymous7/06/2011

    Very funny post, Krystal. On this side of the ocean, everyone drives a stick-shift, so it's funny to hear how people react to one in the US. And I love the time machine/teleportation line.

  3. @ Julia I make a point to work HARDER from home. There are very few times where I have been allowed to do it, but I do not want to let myself down by being exactly what nay-sayers umm, say.

    @ Derek Sad but true fact: Stick shifts are difficult to find. What makes my job of finding one even more difficult is that I will only drive a VW Diesel. When I need a new car I monitor the dealership's websites until I spot a Diesel+stick shift in inventory. Then I call up the bank to arrange the money, call the dealership to verify no one has snagged the car from under me, rush home from work, skip dinner, get the kids to the sitter's, speed to the dealer, buy car. LOL. They must love me...easiest sales ever. ;-)

  4. Cool post, in Ireland the employers who would be flexible to give employers the option to work at home are the American companies, while we are treated like assimilated Borg Drons, they are much more flexible. Still glad I left the office though ;-)

    I agree with you abut the stick, you get way more control.


  5. Haha. Assimilated Borg Drons, huh? Just goes to show people are treated the same by employers almost everywhere. ;-)

    Love that you drive stick shift. Wish they weren't a dying "race" over here.

  6. Well, they call it slugging. Are you allowed to ... slug them? And stick shifts are awesome, btw.

  7. I wish. (No, to any of my fellow sluggers...I love you. Really I do. Without you my days would be even longer and my foot really would get tired. I swear.)

    Here is the explanation of where the term "Slug" comes from: (http://www.slug-lines.com/Slugging/About_slugging.asp)

    Where Did the Word "Slug" Come From?
    The term "slug" itself did not derive from the word that means mollusk, as some people think. Instead, the term appears to have originated from bus drivers as a derogatory term.

    The story goes like this. Bus drivers had always been warned to be aware of counterfeit coins (also known as slugs) from people trying to pass off this fake money in the coin collection tray.

    When slugging was in its infancy, commuters stood at the bus stops, waiting for a driver to pick them up. Bus drivers, thinking these people were waiting for the bus would stop to pick up the passengers only to be waved off, frustrating many of the drivers. As this event became more and more frequent, bus drivers began recognizing the real bus riders from the fakes. Because the people weren’t really waiting for the bus, drivers began to simply call them "slugs." This definition seems to make sense because these people weren’t real bus riders or even real car poolers in the usual sense of the word. They were, just as the name implies, counterfeit riders or slugs. Hence, the term was born.

    Over time, the less-attractive term "slug" has had many contenders, such as "instant carpooler," "hitchhike commuter," and "casual carpooler," but tradition has continued to outlive the newer, more politically correct terms.


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