When people ask how long my commute is to New York City from the Poconos and I tell them it’s two hours one way, they look at me horrified.
“Two hours?!” they say. “That’s crazy!”
No, I will tell you what is crazy:
Paying rent for a postage stamp-sized apartment in New York City that is twice the amount or more than I do for my spacious house in the Poconos.
Or how about dealing with the traffic and congestion of city life?
The sidewalks on 8th Avenue in Manhattan are so crowded that I regularly walk in the street.
Then, of course, there is the city’s “wildlife.” I’m not talking about squirrels or pigeons — I’m talking about rats.
At night, they come up out of the sewer grates and swarm the garbage that is left curbside to be picked up in the morning.
I am not ashamed to admit that near one particular hive of rat activity, I hug the wall to be as far away from the trash as I can.
Then I run — and silently scream.
In Pike County, I can live in the woods with “real” wildlife: Bears, deer, raccoons, skunks, eagles, chipmunks, fox and humming birds, for instance.
The number of cars that pass my street on a single day I can count on one hand. The noisiest it gets is when the garbage truck comes by once a week.
In the city, the incessant wail of sirens of ambulances or fire trucks stuck in traffic pierces your brain like an ice pick driven into your ears.
Before you paint me as some kind of country hayseed, understand that I grew up in the Bronx in what were the very unglamorous ’70s.
I was a city kid through and through.
I recall making an overnight visit to a former Bronx neighbor who had moved to Long Island and not being able to sleep because it was too quiet.
And when I first moved out of the Bronx to a community in the Adirondack Mountains, I regularly visited the city as often as I could to take in its distinct aroma.
But as I’ve gotten older, I have come to appreciate the peace and quiet and privacy that comes with living in “the sticks.”
I’m not alone.
Nearby Monroe County, Pa., ranked among the top 10 extreme commutes in the country, according to a 2013 study by the Census Bureau. Just look at how many people take the commuter buses into Manhattan.
Those people have decided that the quality and affordability of life, schools and housing in Northeast Pennsylvania make the long commute worth the while.
Of course nothing can match New York City for its cultural offerings, food choices and diversity. And yes, areas of the Poconos have been hard hit with foreclosures, skyrocketing school taxes and a lack of high-paying jobs.
But it’s all a tradeoff.
I’ve heard the Poconos referred to as the “green prison” because of its woodlands, isolation and long winters.
I’d rather live in a green prison than a concrete jungle.