If reading were illegal, I’d spend my life in prison. As a kid, I literally read myself cross-eyed, but today, I have been redeemed by audiobooks. Praise the Lord and don’t make me give up my subscriptions to Audible.com.
Sometime during the 1990s, I discovered audiobooks.
I was a “wrong way” commuter, which meant my commute started in Boston and took me out to the suburbs. This was supposed to make the drive easier than going the other way.
Reality was a different. Traffic was heavy in every direction, whether you started in Boston or came in the from the suburbs. The east-west commute was nominally less awful than the north-south commutes, though coming from the north shore down to Boston was and is probably among the worst commutes anywhere.
When we lived in Boston up the 17th floor of Charles River Park, we could look out the window any time of the day or night and it was always bumper to bumper as far as the eye could see. It was like that every day of the week and any time of day.
Garry had a 5 minute walk to work. I drove. You’d think that at least once during the 20+ years Garry and I have been together, that I’d find one job that was near home. Funny how that never happened.
There’s no point in measuring a commute by distance because distance is irrelevant. It’s how long it takes that counts. It it takes you 2 hours to go six miles, but you can travel 15 miles in half an hour, obviously 15 miles is the shorter commute.
My commute was never short. Wherever my work took me, it was never anyplace convenient, except for those wonderful periods when I worked at home and had to go to the “office” only occasionally.
The 1990s were serious commuting years. Boston to Amesbury, Boston to Burlington, Boston to Waltham.
It got worse. By 2000, we had moved to Uxbridge and it is never easier to get from Uxbridge to anywhere, except one of the other Valley towns … and I didn’t work in any of them.
As jobs got more and more scarce and I got older and less employable, I found myself commuting even longer distances. FirstProvidence, Rhode Island, which wasn’t so bad, but after that, I had to go to Groton, Connecticut a few times a week. That was 140 miles each way, a good deal of it on unlit, unmarked local roads. It was a killer commute and unsurprisingly, I was an early GPS adopter.
Even though I didn’t have to do it every day, Groton did me in. Hudson was almost as bad, and Amesbury was no piece of cake either. The distance from Uxbridge to Newton was not far as the crow flies, but since I was not a crow, it was a nightmare.
On any Friday afternoon, it took more than three hours to go twenty some odd miles. On Friday afternoons in the summer when everyone was taking off on for the weekend, I found myself battling not merely regular commuter traffic, but crazed vacationers, desperate to get out of Dodge.
The job market had become unstable, and it seemed every time I turned around, I was working in a different part of the Commonwealth or in another state entirely. If it weren’t for audiobooks, I’d probably have needed a rubber room.
First, I discovered Books On Tape. Originally intended as audiobooks for the blind, me and a million other commuters discovered them during the mid 1990s. They were a godsend. Instead of listening to the news, talk radio, or some inane jabbering DJ, I could drift off into whatever world of literature I could pop into my car’s cassette player.
I bought a lot of audio books and as cassettes began to disappear and everything was on CD, Books On Tape ceased renting books to the consumer market. Fortunately, audiobooks had become downright popular and were available at book stores like Barnes and Noble. Everybody was listening and most of us couldn’t imagine how we’d survived before audiobooks.
In 2002, along came Audible. At first, it was a bit of a problem, figuring out how to transport ones audible books into ones vehicle, but technology came up with MP3 players and widgets that let you plug your player, whatever it is, into your car’s sound system.
Audible started off modestly, but grew and grew and having recently been acquired by Amazon (a company that, like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Verizon, is plotting to take over the world and succeeding pretty well), is getting bigger by the minute. For once, I don’t mind a bit. The company was well run before Amazon, and Amazon had the good sense to not mess with success. It is still easy to work with them, literally a pleasure doing business.
Five years ago, I became too sick to work anymore. Would that mean giving up audiobooks? Not on your life. When I was nearly dead, I listened to books and they distracted me from pain and fear, kept me company when I was alone and wondering if I’d live to see morning. Sometimes, they made me laugh in the midst of what can only be described as a place where humor is at a premium.
Today, I listen as I do everything except write. I can listen to books as I play mindless games on Facebook, edit photographs, pay bills or make a seven letter Scrabble play. I admit I cannot listen and write at the same time. That seems to be the point where multi-tasking ends. Actually, I can’t do anything while I write except write.
I get a lot of reading done while accomplishing the computerized tasks of life, not to mention turning hours of mindless messing around into valuable reading time. I am, in effect always reading.
Reading in Bed: My Guilty Pleasure
I read at night on my Kindle because reading in bed has always been one of my guilty pleasures. Oh how I love snuggling into bed with a book, electronic or paper, I don’t care. A book is a book by whatever format.
I remember reading in my bedroom under the covers using a flashlight, or worse, trying to read from a sliver of light from the hallway nightlight, or, if everything else failed, by the light of a bright moon.
“You’ll ruin your eyes” cried my mother who probably had snuck books into her bed and read by candlelight.
To this day, I don’t know why she didn’t just let me turn a light on. She had to know I was going to read anyhow. She was always reading too! In fact, if books were my addiction, she was my dealer.
Even in today politically-correct world, giving your kid too many books to read is not yet considered child abuse. Aren’t we glad!
So my love affair with books continues. My tastes change, favorite authors move up or down the list. I go through phases: all history, nothing but fantasy, a run of thrillers, a series of biographies.
Getting older has few advantages but there is one huge gift and that is time. I have time to read. I can get so involved in my book that I look up and realize that oops, the sun is coming up and I’ve lost another night’s sleep.
It doesn’t matter. Because I don’t have to commute anywhere anymore. I don’t have to leap out of bed with 10 minutes to shower, dress, make up, and get out.
I can stay up too late reading, or writing, or watching movies and for the rest of my life, no one can make me stop. And that, friends, is really, truly, my fondest dream come true.
- Listen to unlimited audiobooks on your smartphone (reviews.cnet.com)
- Five ways to save money on audiobooks (reviews.cnet.com)
- Kindle’s New Whispersync for Voice Keeps Your Audiobooks Synced With Your Book Books (gizmodo.co.uk)
- Kindle’s New Whispersync for Voice Keeps Your Audiobooks Synced With Your Book Books [Kindle Fire] (gizmodo.com)
- Are Audiobooks Better Than Books? (theboywithahat.wordpress.com)
- Boston Traffic: Before And After The Big Dig (wbur.org)