In my post, “10 Things I Will Miss About the Bus”, I explained that after 35 years, I was no longer taking the bus to work, due to a relocation of my office that made the bus commute impractical and a very long journey.
Believe it or not, after 35 years of taking the bus, there was some uncertainty as to whether I would be fine with driving. I was so used to getting on the bus, getting into the cone of silence of noise-cancelling headphones, and zoning out either by reading, catching up on social media, writing a few passages for the next blog, or just dozing off. Clearly, one cannot do that behind the wheel.
But in addition, I wondered if I had what enough of the prerequisite it took to become a daily driver: patience.
Initially, one might think that it is an easy transition and a no-brainer to go from busing to driving, but the prospect of driving was met with some trepidation especially with winter just around the corner. Would my patience hold up, day in and day out, in bumper-to-bumper traffic?
The answer surprised me. Not only did my patience hold up, frankly I mellowed out to a degree I would never have imagined.
It is not that I was a hothead or aggressive by any stretch of the imagination. It was just that even as a weekend driver, I did have a tendency of getting a little irritated from time to time navigating around the extremes of driving, as much from the bullies as from the very timid, finding myself caught somewhere in the middle.
Since the transition to the daily drive, I have witnessed more bad driving than I could ever imagine. On a weekly basis, I see people looking at their phones, eating complete breakfasts, applying make-up, or seemingly spring cleaning their vehicle.
While I think it is a lot to expect that everyone would be textbook-perfect drivers according to the driver’s handbook we all studied in high school, the challenge is navigating the creative variations people develop and their interpretation of the rules of the road.
In facing this reality day in and day out, I find myself playing referee between the extremes.
The only way I seem to be able to remain sane and to keep the peace is to dig deeply and dish out courtesy and gratitude… by the shovel full. I try to make my hand gestures (nice ones) as generous as someone on a theatre stage so there is no uncertainty when I am letting someone merge ahead of me. Similarly, if someone generously lets me merge in, my gratitude is a little exaggerated, expressed in a wave worthy of a grand marshal at a parade.
In a sense, I feel I am trying to help restore balance by overdoing it on the courtesy, generosity and gratitude in a place where unsporting behaviour runs deep while everyone travels in their little “me” bubbles.
But it is through these extremes that not only have lessons in patience emerged, but I quickly adjusted to the obvious reality that I have little control over traffic. I expect traffic, I expect bad driving around me, I expect people to be impatient, I expect slowdowns of all kinds, and I cannot go faster than the vehicle in front of me (no matter how much the car behind me wants to). In managing my expectations around these realities, I am more vigilant and I tend to relax more. Plus, nothing really surprises me anymore.
That being the case, I plan accordingly. I leave the house with an extra 15-20 minutes of buffer time and I make it on time to work 99% of the time, in one piece and in a good frame of mind.
When I think of the fact that my commute time is still half of what it would have been had I been taking the bus, does it really make a difference whether I get there in 30, 35 or 40 minutes? What’s the rush?
Over the nine months I have been driving and playing referee, I have already reclaimed countless hours of personal time and am quite grateful for that luxury.
Driving to work is perhaps not so bad after all.
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