As a line in one of my poems goes, New Hampshire is for the most part a daytime state. The thought arose in downtown Portsmouth around six o’clock on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening around this time of the year nearly three decades ago, and it still holds.
For added perspective, let me add that Portsmouth was – and until Covid – continued to be the place with the most nightlife in the Granite State, yet the center felt deserted that evening, save for a few furtive figures dashing from doorways and down the sidewalks.
Well, tourist season had long passed and the weather was definitely frigid. I imagined that everybody was already huddled inside somewhere.
Lately, I’ve been thinking there’s a good reason for that daytime state observation. The bulk of the populace in the state has a long daily commute to and from the workplace.
When I lived in Manchester, my apartment was only a few miles from the office. I had backways to zip from home to work and back.
In moving to Dover, things changed. My hour-long daily commute over Manchester involved part of the afternoon rush hour, which blessedly was headed mostly in the opposite direction. For the late-night return, the roads were nearly empty.
Working the vampire shift or weekends definitely gives you a different view of a certain subculture of society. You can shop or run other errands when so many others are locked away on their jobs.
One thing I learned to avoid in my free time was trying to head south, meaning toward Boston, any earlier than 9 a.m., when the bottleneck at the Great Bay bridge would finally clear out. (After years of construction, that problem’s finally been alleviated. Hooray!)
Other than that, I haven’t thought much about rush hours, but recently, given repeated opportunities to dash across the state in the morning on behalf of my elder daughter’s business, I’ve been retracing my former daily commute plus a little more, just at a much different hour.
Hoping to avoid the morning rush hour, I’ve set forth as early as 5:30 but been surprised by the amount of traffic already on the road, significantly more than I’ve been seeing at 8 or 9 in the evening. By 6:30 a.m., the headlights streaming out of seemingly rural locales (what we call towns or others might consider townships) is quite steady – in one direction. Many of them, I’m guessing, are headed toward jobs in Massachusetts, ones that might start at 8 or 9.
As I ponder the flow, I’m wondering how much heavier it was before Covid and all of the work-at-home shift that’s followed. Did the drivers I’m seeing previously have to leave that much earlier to accommodate the heavier traffic volume?
Still, if you’re among those who have to rise at 4 or 5 to commute four to six hours a day, that leaves little time for evening activities. It strikes me as a high price to pay, but then so is the cost of housing in the Bay State, where most of the good-paying jobs are.