The case for forgetting your way to the office (and taking long breaks)
Since I joined Index three years ago, I’ve been getting to work by bike pretty much every single day. That’s how I realised it actually wasn’t raining that much in London. Or maybe I just stopped caring about it.
If you asked me what the best part about riding a bike to work is, I wouldn’t say the fresh air, the exercise, or the freedom, I would actually tell you it’s the predictability. The entire London transportation system may drown under a tsunami, I would still arrive at the office between 15 and 20 minutes after I left home.
The price to pay for this predictability is that I gave up any creativity. After two weeks of trial and error, I had identified (what I thought was) the optimal route and stuck to it for the next three years. 600 rides or so following exactly the same streets, the same right and left turns, uphill, downhill, in the same order.
But although I thought it was optimal, I still didn’t find that journey perfect. Three blocks after my flat, there would be a dangerous junction, in a small, quiet, hidden street, where large trucks park on both sides, hence obstructing any visibility. Every day for three years I would moan and curse, and threaten to write a letter to my local MP, convinced I would one day get hit at that very location.
It lasted until Wednesday, last week, when, completely inadvertently, I took a right turn one street before the junction, which led me straight past the trucks and safely onto the next leg of my journey. I didn’t do it because I wanted to solve that particular junction problem, but simply because I had been away from London for over a month, and had forgotten about the “optimal” route.
This may be a trivial example but it shows what those long breaks are amazing for: they break the routine and allow you to see and do things differently, in your work, but also in your life in general. I wish Index would let me have more of them!