For the past month, I've been commuting into Auckland's glorious CBD for several days a week. It's a departure from my usual random contractor schedule - which normally requires only short visits to the city centre.
Alongside the other busy little bees, I've become accustomed to the burst of traffic fumes and unending roadworks that usher the day in.
Perhaps unlike them, I haven't quite cracked the seamless exit/entry from suburbia to town. Here are the highlights:
That time I caught the bus
Like all clued-up Aucklanders, I wholeheartedly support our public transport network. Each night, I religiously check the bus schedule. Not being on a direct route means I have to leave plenty of time for walking, catching and, on some suggested routes, a transfer. There's also no second chance if you're late because the buses don't come that often.
Unfortunately, despite loud acknowledgements of the need to leave early each day, I have never once made it in time to the bus stop.
After three weeks of what some called "self-imposed panic" at the beginning of each day, I gave up, slept an extra 30 minutes, and committed myself to start cycling as I drove down the southern motorway.
That time I found a cheap car park
I thought I'd hit the jackpot. A $10, all-day spot in the middle of the city. Finally, a useful piece of commuter information I could share with anyone willing to listen.
Turns out, it was too good to be true. On this fateful evening, I sat in the relevant car park for over an hour as traffic cleared on the surrounding streets. The key lesson: a multi-storey carpark with a single entry/exit point on to a one-way street is going to get congested.
Unanticipated silver lining: I was able to catch up via phone with a friend in Melbourne. Of particular interest was the fact she'd left work at the same time I did, managed to get home via tram, and then had a full conversation with me while I sat in the car park exit queue.
That time it rained
This one really caught me off-guard. What started off as grey clouds in the early morning developed into a decent amount of rain. Given the ongoing water shortage, it's an event I'd thought we'd all be pleased about. It's also one I assumed most drivers would be accustomed to. Not so it seemed.
That morning was like a free-for-all. From haphazard accelerating, premature and unnecessary stopping, to a lack of basic indicating, it was every vehicle for itself - and that was just on Great South Rd.
That time I missed the early bird parking cut-off
This has been one of the more devastating commuter lessons. Unlike my second-chance, missed-bus mornings, there's a hard deadline for getting out if you want to catch the car park early bird rates.
On this particular day, I'd mistimed the afternoon and made it back to the payment machine a little after 6pm. The $50 fee prompted a few sweary words at all things automobile-related and Auckland generally.
It also meant a rather dry, lowly lunch of tuna and crackers the next day as I reflected on the unsustainable addiction to driving I'd developed. The central question: had I become one of those Aucklanders unable to part with their vehicle despite the outrageous cost?
That time I started cycling
Just kidding. I'm not there yet. But it's down for week five in the commuter diary. I'm pleased to say that in anticipation, I packed a shower bag last week. This is currently under my desk in town, waiting to be unpacked and put to use.
It means that when I've finally given up on missing buses and paying for parking, I'll hit the bike/bus lanes with the rest of the cyclists - dodging whatever other vehicles and hazards are around.
Undoubtedly, it will be something to celebrate, and I look forward to new bragging rights as a high-vis Auckland commuter.