Grinning @ The Driver Next Door

Still on the silliness kick I guess, but hey, why not?  Plus there’s evidence that smiling more makes you feel like smiling more…who woulda thunk?

I’ve noticed that something changes when we get inside that little wheeled mobile unit – we just want to keep on moving.  We don’t want anything to slow us down or get in our way.  Our expectation for continual motion drives us away from our more pleasant natures.  By now, we all know about road rage, but as things get rougher out there, do we know enough about how to avoid it?

Because – & I know you’ve never heard me say this – we can fantasize that making more lanes on downtown streets or local highways will solve our problem, but there is ample evidence that it won’t.  We all (& I’m including myself here) really do need to seriously adjust to the reality that moving around in cars isn’t ever going to be cheaper or easier or faster or good for the environment.  Parking all those cars we’re driving isn’t ever going to be cheaper or easier or faster, etc., either.

Well, OK, I know enough of this life to never say never…we don’t really know what’s around the corner for any of us, except we do know that rapid climate change will affect (is already affecting) all life on earth, no doubt in mostly unpleasant ways for humans.  Unless there’s a tragic drop in human population, or advances in alchemy, the future we’re now careening toward will no doubt mean more walking, biking, & transit for all of us, not more car driving.  Irrespective of how many Chinese billionaires are buying black Mercedes.  & irrespective of short-term thinking about high speed rail in California.

But, to get back to our emotional state while we’re still (usually alone) in that car, still in that traffic.  I try to practice a great suggestion from my meditation teacher to turn off NPR & instead, to cultivate compassion while driving.  We know that we’re all pretty much in the same, uh, boat out there – trying to cover too much ground in too little time, with unadjusted expectations about travel time reality; distracted by random anxieties; obsessing about events that happened in the past or could happen in the future; & (here’s where the grinning comes in) annoyance (or even real anger) at what that other guy is doing (or not doing) to make our too-long journey less safe…& yes, she also recommends practicing deep breathing.

Will these tactics get rid of traffic congestion?  You know the answer to that.  Will it get rid of the idiot flagrantly gabbing on his cell phone while attempting multiple lane changes? Sadly, probably not.  But it could make our busy lives more livable.  & it could offer a sweet connection with that nearby human, despite the metal box we’re both encased in.

So, I promise to pay attention in that auto.  I promise to practice grinning with generosity. & I promise to let you cut in front of me if you put down that cell phone & smile back.

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3 Responses to Grinning @ The Driver Next Door

  1. Jean says:

    I have to drive as part of my work day. How to relax? Quite simple: I drive within the speed limit. Let me repeat: within the speed limit. That means just a hair under the posted speed limit. Most Santa Cruz streets are posted 25 mph. That means I drive my work truck at 24.9 miles per hour. So relaxing, no matter what anyone else does. So relaxing, really as relaxing as meditation. On the weekend, when my husband and I take our car out for our 3 mile shopping loop, we do the same. We smile all the time. Amazingly, and this may come as a surprise, there is never road rage either in front of us or behind us. I think this used to be called being a Pace Car. Remember the blue and white official looking decals? Just be the Pace Car you wish for the world. Smiles all around, Linda. Thanks, as usual for an enjoyable blog.

  2. Marilyn says:

    Thanks for the great suggestions, Linda. Since I teach over the hill, I’ve been driving Highway 17 at the 5:45 to 6:30 am commuter pace. By contrast, everything else seems less dangerous and less stressful.
    However, there could be a solution — a bus or a jitney that goes north instead of south when it gets to Silicon Valley, stopping at West Valley College, De Anza College, Apple, NASA, etc. All of us have to drive. How should I start to get that bus or jitney service?

  3. liveoaklinda says:

    hi Marilyn! jeez i would hate that commute. I’d think that Apple is your best bet for a shuttle – there are so many Apple commuters from SC. Also you could try the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission’s Commute Solutions program: http://commutesolutions.org/. Maybe a carpool would work, too. Today I was really annoyed at a person following so close behind me – I had to try hard to remember my own advice!

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