01. WRITER

Christopher Michalik


02. THEME

Commute


03. MUSIC INSPIRATION

Cake:
Long Line of Cars


04. WRITING

In the second half of 2013, I was working on a contract with Ford Motor Company as an ergonomic engineer near their headquarters in Dearborn, MI. Commuting from my parents' house in Rochester Hills, MI took me anywhere between 1 hour 15 minutes and 1 hour 45 minutes, depending on the rush hour traffic. Working 8-9 hours a weekday, this was my first real taste of the feeling of sinking my entire life into my career. Every weekday for 6 months was tasked with the same routine. Wake up at 7, leave by 7:45, arrive at 9, leave at 6, get home at 7:30, eat dinner with the family, sleep at 10.

You don't wonder where we're going or remember where we've been

If I'm honest with myself, the commute was the most enjoyable part of the work week. It was enough time to listen to an entire album or podcasted interview. This is where Cake came in. I had only really started listening to the band regularly a few months prior to this, so everything I heard from them was fresh and new. Sitting and staring forward, making sure I didn't collide with all the other tired and frustrated drivers didn't seem so bad when I had something to soothe me. At first, I didn't like “Long Line of Cars.”

There's no single explanation, there's no central destination

Now, I know to listen to a song multiple times, on different days, with different moods, before I decide my feelings about a piece. I remember getting frustrated by the repetitive bass line, the long, droning vocals, and the theme coinciding and highlighting my annoyance with being stuck in traffic. I'm not sure what it was, but I eventually came to appreciate Cake's ability to turn a boring, routine, stuttering voyage into something beautiful. The daily annoyances turned into a melody. The bumper-to-bumper chronic braking turned into a percussive rhythm. The anxiety of trying not to get killed by a road rage-infused disgruntled commuter transposed into a soothing, droning vocal line that almost sounded like John McCrea got bored mid-note. The resentment of other drivers not knowing the rules of the road being contrasted by the lyrics appreciation of every other driver having a destination, but the traffic as a whole having no real destination.

So this long line of cars is trying to break free

The mounting inspiration on my feeling like I held a deeper understanding of the piece coupled with my previous contempt for the piece felt like too much to handle. Even now, when I listen to the song, it brings back flashbacks of I-75 southbound, mounted at a vantage point to see the impossible amount of vehicles in front and behind me, feeling like I could never escape, makes me anxious. I'm glad I no longer endure the troubles of a commute via car on long highways, and this song makes me appreciate the beauty of that history, and the relief of escaping it.