Podcasts are having a bit of a “moment” right now, digitally speaking. Yes, YouTube’s dorky, less attractive cousin is finally getting some love. We can probably thank Serial for a lot of that…for the rest, we, or at least I, can thank traffic.
So, I live in the Valley and work in Torrance. If you don’t live in LA and thus can’t recite all the possible freeways permutations between those two points and the surface street alternatives and have all the camera lights memorized, let me spell it out for you: it’s a bitch of a commute. Usually about 60-90 minutes each way, give or take depending on weather, holidays schedules, presidential visits, and the rotation of the planet Mercury (my theory, anyway).
Suffice it to say, I’m in the car a lot. All by my lonesome. After a while, the morning radio shows didn’t cut it and I needed sometime to distract me from the compounding realization that I am wasting 3 hours of my day sitting on the 405, anxious to get wherever I am going, because life is a neverending rat race, the finish of which is constantly, achingly just out of reach.
So yeah, podcasts. My timing was impeccable, because right as I started making this commute, Serial was just starting to blow up, and I blew through the first 6 episodes, salivating for the next. I would save the new episodes, which were released on Thursday mornings, for the afternoon commute, like a squirrel saving a nut for a long winter.
To fill in the gaps between Thursdays, aka the rest of the week, I’d pepper in episodes of the TED Radio Hour, which adapts several loosely related Talks into radio-friendly episodes. It’s the perfect balance of fun and cerebral intensity: just enough to take my mind of my existential strife, and not too much where I’d rear end the $90,000 convertible inching along in front of me.
Then of course when Serial ended, I needed more. Criminal proved to be a suitable stand in (as is The Staircase, available on YouTube, if we’re talking non-podcast). Stuff You Missed in History Class made me feel like I was being productive–in the car!–by, you know, learning stuff. Sometimes I’ll flip on Coffee Break French to brush up on mon francais.
Then I moved on to the harder stuff…audio books. I blew through all three Hunger Games books (yeah I know, shut up) and Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn’s other two novels, which are, delightfully, even more messed up that GG. Now I’m listening to “A Brief History of The Middle East,” which I’m pretty much only sticking with at this point to be able to tell people that I’m listening to “A Brief History of The Middle East.”
So I’ve learned to turn my commute into the proverbial lemonade. It might actually contribute to me being a better, more well-rounded, possibly multi-lingual person. Who knew?