Campus Life the plus plus

My morning commute as an algorithm

That computer science lifestyle

I am a creature of routines, and being a Course 6 student has inspired me to algorithmitize (yes, that’s a made up word) my life when possible. For example, I do laundry every Saturday, sometimes earlier when my hamper is 75% full, or my favorite hoodie is in need of a wash. When I moved off campus, I was suddenly faced with a new daily decision: how to get to campus every day. Making an algorithm was the logical next step. Here’s my thought process:

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way. I’m too uncoordinated to longboard and am scared of biking in the street, so there go those options. Don’t even get me started on driving.

I’m from Michigan, which is (1) a state whose big claim to fame is making cars and (2) where everything is far enough away that you really need a car to get by. Unfortunately, driving gives me anxiety and I hate it. Moving to Cambridge, a relatively walkable city, was a relief for me.

Of course, there are more reasons to walk than just to avoid driving. Being a mostly-foot commuter is way cheaper than owning a car. Cars come with monthly payments, maintenance fees, parking fees, insurance fees, tolls, gas prices, etc. On the other hand, all I need as a foot commuter is a good pair of shoes (replaced every ~6 months due to wear), headphones, and a waterproof backpack. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a few bucks on my CharlieCard here and there.

Speaking of CharlieCards, that brings me to the MBTA, which is another decision branch in my commuter algorithm.

If the 1 Bus is less than four minutes away (inclusive), and there isn’t a crowd at the Central Square stop, then it is worth hitching a ride into campus. This is the ideal scenario because I need to be on the west side of campus to start off my day. If that condition is satisfied, I take the bus, and my commute is easy.

However, if the bus is too far away and the weather is bad enough to make me slightly uncomfortable (rainy, too cold, too hot), I check if the inbound Red Line train will come within five minutes. This is a bit of a gamble, because even if the train is less than five minutes away, there’s no way to gauge the crowdedness of the platform until I’ve already paid for the ride. With this commute, I still have to walk from the Kendall station to the west side of campus, but at least most of that walk will be indoors.

Otherwise, if the bus is too far away and the wait for the T is too long, things can get a little messy — I have to add a few more conditionals. I’ll wait longer for the train depending on how unbearable the weather is. Torrential downpour? I’ll wait 12–15 minutes. Snowpocalypse? I’ll wait a few minutes longer. But, ultimately, I’m always prepared to make the trek on foot. The trick is to make sure my laptop and notebook are in waterproof bags (always keep plastic bags in your backpack, kids!) before I set out for school.

If we get to this point, the algorithm throws an amusing error message (or, at least, this is what I like to imagine), and I have to actually take over and decide whether or not to call a Lyft or retreat to the comfiness of my living room.