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long commutes bad for your healthcare

By enelson
Wednesday, November 21st, 2007 at 12:05 am in driving, other, Transit vs. driving.


First, let me say that I didn’t choose to commute nearly 150 miles each day. It was a byproduct of my being a trailing spouse that over time became a monster I couldn’t control.

I make the best of it. I take the train when I can. I leave the necessary work vehicle in Oakland, pedal to the Coliseum Amtrak station and pay $11.75 to get home to the Central Valley.

Sure, I must be crazy. But so must thousands of others who chose such a life.

There are many reasons why one should avoid this arrangment. This weekend, I came up with one more.

Would that I had blogged about this Friday night, but I was in too much pain.

Seems the flu shot I got Nov. 12 was administred just a bit ham-fistededly, causing a bruise on the inside of my arm that bothered a nerve that sent waves of pain from my shoulder to my fingers.

It hit me as I was driving down I-80 Friday morning, so I popped three ibuprofens and that made me fit for work until about 4 p.m. or so, when Wave No. 2 made my face go through contortions that elicited concerned looks and comments from my colleagues. I popped four ibuprofen tabs, which didn’t stop the pain, but dulled it enough so I could finish the holiday getaway¬†story I’d been working on.

Oddly enough, there were massage tables set up in our lunchroom for some kind of introductory service a local company was hawking. That reminded me of tables where you donate blood, which reminded me of needles which in turn reminded me that my writhing arm had been injected a few days earlier.

I feared the worst. After avoiding flu shots for a decade, I finally decided to get one, only to have the reaction that discouraged me from getting vaccinated for so long.

I was wrong, but I didn’t know that and didn’t want to end up gasping for air on the drive home. It was Friday, so I have to take the car home.

I call my primary care provider out in the wilds of the Central Valley. They give me the advice nurse. She says I might be reacting to the vaccine. She was wrong. She tells me I should come in to urgent care, which is only 75 miles away. I tell her I’m in Oakland.

So she tells me to go to an emergency room. I might as well have been in Phoenix. I drive to Alta Bates Summit Hospital in Oakland, most of the way debating with myself whether I should just drive home and avoid the horrendous co-pay I’ll be charged when they find out all I have is a non-admittable boo-boo.

Sure enough, after three hours of waiting until all the really sick and injured people were seen, they told me I have this bruise no one can really see, and that’s why it hurts so much.

I’m relieved hear this, I pop some more ibuprofen and drive home, all the while wondering how much this little bit of self-assurance will cost me.

So besides being so far removed from my home, my belongings, my dog and my bed, I’m impossibly far from a doctor where I can reasonably expect will cost me no more than a $15 co-pay.

This is the same struggle I have whenever I need to see a dentist (Oakland or the valley? At least I have that choice.) or need to take my dog to the vet’s.

I’m not expecting a bailout. I’m the sort of commuter who needs to be punished by society, at least if you believe the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments. Remote health care is just one more cross I’ve nailed myself to.

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6 Responses to “long commutes bad for your healthcare”

  1. Mike Says:

    I have had the health care dilemma. I used to commute 55 miles each way. I slowly moved most of my health care providers close to home, and now I no longer commute. I still get my hair cut and visit a chiropractor close to my old job because I really like both of them.

  2. miked Says:

    The health care dilemma also applies to car-less people who depend on transit. Daily schedules often do not work well with transit trips to dentists or doctors, especially if you want one closer to home than to work.

    This isn’t just hard on the distance commuter, it’s also hard on the transit dependent or transit oriented commuter. Only the “drive a short distance to work” type is in any sort of “good shape” on this.

  3. Capricious Commuter Says:

    Well put, Mike. Too often I neglect the transit-dependent in these discussions. I can’t even accept the idea of taking the bus to get to BART during my deadline-ruled schedule. When our office moved to nearly 2 miles from BART, it really screwed up the lives of some of my co-workers, who now have to add an hour of waiting for buses to any trip they have to take out of the office.

  4. Transitplans Says:
    Check out the details of MTC’s scenario modeling. Putting more buses on the streets will outperform all the fancy new rail proposals combined.

  5. South Bay Resident Says:


    It depends on what you want to do. If your goal is to maximize transit use then the BRT/HOT lane option seems like the way to go, however, if your goal is to minimize travel time, then the freeway performance option (strategic widening, metering lights and more HOV lanes) is the way to go. In fact, the freeway upgrades, combined with congestion pricing and/or land use controls are the only option that the MTC claims can offer a reduction in traffic congestion.

  6. Transitplans Says:

    Congestion pricing and transit are interdependent. One cannot successfully without the other. If there are no alternatives, people will have no option other than to pay the fee.

    Land use and transit are also interdependent. Smart land use enables transit. Good transit supports smart land use.

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