After some serious traffic tie-ups through the city in recent weeks, a few colleagues mentioned “I don’t know how you can commute day in and day out like you do.” They were interesting observations, I thought, as I mulled over the reasons while in bumper-to-bumper traffic tonight.
Here are some of the secrets to how I remain calm through approximately 444 traffic jams per year:
Have you ever arrived at a destination and then stayed in the car to let a song on the radio play out until the end because it is one of your favourites? That is the same logic I use in building commuting playlists of just my favourites. That way, even if am stuck in traffic, it doesn’t feel like I am stuck when I think to myself “Oh, I like that song!” one song after the other. That way, I don’t get irritated by commercials, news or DJ banter on topics that don’t entertain me. Also, I keep my eyes on the road as I never need to change songs, my music player does it all for me, shuffling through my list of favourites. I just set it and forget it. Before departure, I can also choose the playlist that best suits what I need in the moment, whether songs to energize or to decompress. When the playlist is perfect, it is like the music becomes the focal point and driving becomes the secondary activity.
“Go” Before I Go
Self-explanatory. That way my bladder is not complaining if I need to navigate through unexpected traffic delays.
A meal or a snack before hitting the road
With something in my tummy, I find I have a greater threshold for not sweating the small stuff, especially when behind the wheel.
Leaving 15 minutes earlier than I need to
Adding an extra 15 minute buffer (more in winter weather) to any trip within town seems to keep me on time, allows me to relax when faced with unplanned traffic events, and overall, seems to take the edge off any little traffic irritations.
It gives me time to collect my thoughts
Whether it is preparing myself for the workday ahead, or shutting off the workday to fully enjoy my evening, that quiet time alone in the car gives me time to relax and breathe … well, as much as one can breathe when surrounded by cars and commercial vehicles.
I’m not competitive
I don’t care if the next lane is moving faster. With the natural ebb and flow of traffic, I seem to meet up with those same cars or trucks later anyway.
I can take a break
If on some commutes it seems like everyone around me had a bad day or woke up on the wrong side of the bed, I can take a few minutes to turn into a parking lot, have a 5 minute break, and rejoin the flow of traffic with a calmer bunch. If it’s on the way home, I can run errands, change my route or even stop for a bite to eat and wait for traffic and tempers to lighten up.
It still takes less time than the bus
As I discussed in my post Top 10 Things I Will Miss About the Bus, when my office relocated to a site which would take a minimum 1 hour and 15 minute bus ride each way, I decided that after 35 years of taking the bus, it was time to retire the bus pass, get a parking pass and start driving to work. It certainly took some adjusting, but I don’t know if I could go back now, considering how much time I reclaim, week after week.
Is there anything that drives me nuts about the commute? Of course. I get irritated by people around me checking their phones, people darting out for a lane change with no advance signal, or the bad luck of several red lights in a row, but what could I do about it? Nothing. So why get mad?
I just continue singing to my favourite playlist, marveling at how on-key I may or may not be at the time, and I keep my middle fingers to myself.
Keeping cool behind the wheel is a choice I make. In the end, I would prefer to look forward to the drive, rather than dread it. Life is way too short for that.
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Have a great day,