I’ve started commuting for the first time in my life. It’s 25 or 30 minutes round trip on the highway, and for a while, listening to music was enough. Then I started to feel like I was wasting time. If I was going to spend a full 10 hours each month in my car driving to and from work, I might as well do something useful.
So I gave in to my grandfatherly ambitions and decided that I’d listen to books on tape.
I started out with a copy of “Born to Kvetch,” a book about Yiddish, but I couldn’t stand the narrator’s voice; it sounded like a weird cross between Jon Stewart and Stephen Hawking. The narrator took the last vowel of the last word in every sentence and held it two beats too long. I gave up on “Born to Kvetch” after a day.
I’ve since settled in with “Gasping for Airtime,” a memoir by Jay Mohr about his two years on “Saturday Night Live.” It’s not exactly a linguistic challenge, but at 6:15 in the morning, I’m not looking for one. Mohr has a bit of a drone in his voice, but it’s forgivable, because he tends to read lines in the voice of Lorne Michaels or Adam Sandler, and I’ve always been amazed by people who can just break into spot-on impressions.
The only problem with the book is that in the mornings, after 15 minutes of Jay Mohr, I find myself talking like him. We use the same sentence structure. We tell the same stories about Chris Farley. Sometimes, we even start using the same voices.
I want to tell my co-workers, “Look, it’s not me! It’s the audiobook’s fault! I don’t really talk like this!” But I’m not so sure they’d understand.
So I’ve made a decision: I’ll keep listening to audiobooks, but not by writers with usual voices or narrating styles. From here on out, I’m picking audiobooks with cool sounding narrators, guys like James Earl Jones or Samuel L. Jackson, or at least ones that feature inspiring stories from Vince Lombardi or Winston Churchill.
I want to walk into work in the morning, my voice booming, and have co-workers ask: “What the hell happened to you?”
I want to be able to look back at them and cry out: “I commuted!”