Life in the Fast Lane?


I have spent most of my life in the Midwest but did finish out my professional career in the NYC area. Before I moved to the Northeast I had frequent business trips there. It seems that many people I interacted with in that area, they call it the tri-state area (NY, Conn, NJ), had a definite opinion of us in the hinterland. They tend to look at our cities and towns as “cornfield with lights”.  They say what is there to do there? They think life is much slower when you get away from the tri-state area. They proudly say that they “live in the fast lane”. In the years before I moved the this area I just let them have their opinions.

During the four years I worked in the tri-state area I just didn’t get the sense that they were in the fast lane.  When I got to work about 7:30 each morning there were only a few cars in the parking lot and when I left about 6:00 at night there were only a few cars left in the lot. The location I worked at had about 600 professionals who designed products for a “major” communications company. It seemed that it was about 9:30AM before most offices were fully populated and they seriously started emptying about 4:30PM. And that was with an average one and a half hour lunch break! So time wise it just didn’t seem like the fast lane. Unless it referred to getting to work and then getting out fast. 🙂

Maybe when they talked about the fast lane they were talking about time but about quantity of work they produced?  But still that didn’t seem to make sense either. For about five years before I started my life in the Northeast as was developing software tools for an engineering division in Indiana. I continued that same line of work when I moved east. But what I accomplished in four months in Indiana took over a year to do in my job in the tri-state area.  There was just so much bickering and mistrust to be able to go more than an agonizingly  slow speed. So I can’t say that I was in the fast lane quantity wise either. So what was this fast lane I had been hearing about for so long?

After thinking long and serious about the “fast lane” I finally figured it out. The population density of the NYC area is much higher than that in the Midwest. Where there are four lane highways in the Midwest there are twelve and sometimes even sixteen lane highways in the Northeast. And even with all those lanes they often would only creep along for hours at a time. After a number of days sitting in all that traffic it finally dawned on me just what “living in the fast lane” really meant.  It means that if you work in the tri-state area you have to get used to sitting/living in traffic, yes even in the fast lanes. With this new understanding of “in the fast lane” I will leave it up to them to live there. Give me a quick-moving four lane highway in the Midwest any day. 🙂

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m sure there are those in the NYC area who put in long hours and are super productive but I don’t think you can say that is true for many if not most of the people who I met there. But many do spend their life living, or should I say camped out, in the fast lane.

And the journey goes on….