Moving Images – Part 2 – “The more you drive…”.


Repo Man is a great road movie in the apocalyptic genre that starts in Los Alamos, NM and includes some amazing lines. “The more you drive, the less intelligent you are” has been a constant point of reference for me over the last 6 years while commuting 60 mile each way to my job in Albuquerque. The commitment to a daily fall down La Bajada ( a 2,000 foot drop in elevation South of Santa Fe) was a decision I made weighing commuting times for different urban areas against the quality of life they offered. Compared to many commutes back East, Santa Fe to Albuquerque seemed like a breeze.

6 years of commuting has been…interesting. I budgeted for 4 speeding tickets and 2 snow days a year. I bought additional term life insurance and a Volvo. When I started there were two of us from the office coming down from Santa Fe, but Laura was insistent that a regular carpool would not work for her; she enjoyed driving her German sedan with satellite radio and radar detector, and the flexible hours that afforded. Then after 5 solo years, 3 more Santa Feans appeared, along with $3/gallon gas, and it was “everyone in the pool!” as often as possible. The carpool became a regular routine of stories, savings, camaraderie, and shared group cursing at our fellow commuters. An interesting dynamic, but in some way less civilized than the solo commute as we encouraged each other’s more animal behaviors and after work beer.

I am writing this from the Railrunner, our recently opened and expanding commuter rail line. I have bought my second monthly pass and the jury is still out. The train is a bit of a joke- when the doors close it goes “Meep! Meep! like the Warner Brothers cartoon. And this train does not outrun that coyote - it is painfully slow compared to a car, even on the wide open straight shots. It is great scenery and great people, but with all its pauses and the connections on either end, it takes me 12 or 13 hours away from my home to work an 8 hour day. The way to have something be really successful is to be stellar and impressive, like a new Apple product. A stunningly low construction cost was about all this train got right; although the trains branding is good, the graphics are quickly being clouded over by the stains from the diesel fumes. This is 50 year old technology.

But driving has become stranger from this new perspective - in a completely private and insular capsule, I would hurl southward, lofted past all misfortune. I was immune. The image that most often comes to mind is from a commercial I saw I don’t know how long ago. It is of a driver and passengers, moving through space in a seated position, the car disappeared around them and themselves exposed; fragile fleshy existence flying through a sharp and solid world at an absurdly high velocity. Without the shiny veneer and protective air bags, one recognizes the precarious relationship of 75 mph flesh to its surroundings. No accidents on the way down today, but I have passed by enough tragedy to have a deep well of imagery to draw upon.

Is this it, or are we going somewhere on this train? I watched in puzzlement as I they installed one lane bridges, with no apparent thought to duel track down the road. Where once I dreamed of owning a BMW, I now dream of a bullet train which may never come. I really hope I am wrong in my prediction, made stupid by those 5 years of driving. Meep! Meep!

Repo Man -
NM Railrunner -
Invisible Car (not the original, but good!) -


Meep Meep!

Good on ya Brett! I think you've retained plenty of intelligence despite many years of car commuting, although I wonder about your companion in the photo. I agree that the Railrunner is not as convenient (or speedy) as it could be, but it provides a viable option to the Abq. - S.Fe I-25 drive.

Given a laptop and the occasionally available Wi-Fi I wonder if you could exchange some of your commute time for 'in-office' work time? I expect that depends on your employer and whatever projects you are working on. But, it could reduce the total amount of time you have away from home and family.

I do like the 'Meep, Meep!', but maybe it wears thin after a few weeks. I also hope that the current RailRunner schedule is just a start and that better service and High-Speed Rail from Texas through New Mexico to Colorado are yet to come. My fingers ARE crossed.