ABOUT TWICE a week someone asks about the commute I make to work from Brigham City. The question usually runs along the line of "Just how far is that drive every day?" But I also hear the unspoken question, the question that asks: "Is it true, Jerry, your brain is the size of a peanut?"
Well, over the years I've prepared several arguments in my defense.First, I don't drive every day. I have a small flat where I crash a couple of nights of week.
And, too, I've come to realize everybody everywhere commutes. My friend Dean Hughes - a children's writer in Provo - gets in his car every morning, drives around the block, goes back into his house and goes to work.
My boss drives in from Little Cottonwood Canyon. On a bad jam day I can just about beat his time, driving from Brigham.
I come from a long line of commuters, in fact. My grandfather was a farmer. But every day he'd put on his flannel shirt, button the top button, slip on a stocking cap and "commute" to the barn. My daily drive couldn't be worse than some of those strolls through 50-below Cache Valley.
My father commuted to Tremonton from Brigham City when he was a vice principal. When he worked as a vice principal in Brigham he'd get five phone calls a night. When he went to Tremonton we got none. It was a long distance call from there and nobody would phone. A call cost 22 cents. Nobody felt their outrage was worth 22 cents.
At any rate, it brings up my best defense. Commuting isn't all negative. There are some perks. True, the talk radio shows get annoying (most of us have brighter conversations with our hairdressers and barbers). And some days I think if I see that old Kaysville granary again I'll weep.
But there are other things. My wife feels sorry for me and lets me golf much more than I have a right to. And my kids actually seem glad to see me when I show up.
And there are moments on the road. Sometimes the hum of the engine and flow of the road helps me relax and good things happen.
I was tooling past west Willard not long ago when a strange light began coloring the mountains. The setting sun was turning everything gold - the haystacks, the rocks. When the Spaniards came north looking for cities of gold, the Native Americans thought they meant the quality of evening light on the huts. The Spaniards left dejected.
As I drove, an old gap-toothed barn loomed up on the right and a small flock of nighthawks circled in and out of the shadows. As each bird spun into the sun, it ignited like a match head in the sunrays.
I looked back to the road, and I had one of those feelings you're lucky to get a few times in life - a feeling that beneath the grubby asphalt, beneath the grime of modern society and grit of evil, the world was good. The universe was whole and good.
Some people make monthlong pilgrimages to holy shrines just to feel what I was feeling. And I got those same feelings as a commuter's "bonus."
And those silly Spaniards? They spent years wandering through the West looking for golden cities when the real gold was there all along - in the fields and the setting sun.
Commutes aren't all bad. If you're lucky, some turn into communions.