… classic studies of lottery winners and paralyzed accident victims found only small differences in life satisfaction between these groups and control subjects. But certain experiences – living near a noisy highway, for example – become more aggravating over time, something scientists call “sensitization.” Commuting falls into this category.
A friend at work recently bought a big house pretty far away from where we work. We don’t really have the option of telecommuting, so he drives an hour and a half or so each way (on a normal day. Bad days can be much worse). Is he happier that way? I don’t know. But it’s interesting to think about what really brings us satisfaction. I don’t think a big house in the suburbs would bring me much satisfaction. I mean, I don’t have kids now, so I don’t need a yard for them to play in, or good schools, or anything like that, so it gives me some more freedom to choose where I live. But I live with my fiancee in a two bedroom condo, about 1100 square feet, in a safe but uninteresting community that’s just a bus ride from the Metro. Would we like a bigger kitchen and some more storage space? Sure. Do I need two more bedrooms and a den? No, not really. I don’t mean to bash those who live far from work. Although I do give my friend a hard time about it sometimes. People have different priorities, and one of mine is a short commute. I had a two hour or more round trip commute for about a year, and I hated it. My commute is maybe 25 minutes now, and that includes dropping the fiancee at the Metro. And I’d still telecommute if I had the opportunity.