Driving doesn’t have to be horrible

Sad driver

The other day I was driving and decided to check out the vehicles in the oncoming lane to see if I could find someone who looked happy. I failed miserably.

With the exception of a few drivers with passengers in their vehicles, every single person had either an expression of intense boredom, depression, or anger. This might seem like an exaggeration, but if you don’t believe me, try to play a game of “Spot the Happy Driver.”

This really got me thinking: why all the grumps?

Maybe sadness, anger, and boredom are peoples’ default expressions — the true faces that are revealed when they don’t think anyone is watching. But could everyone really be so down in the dumps?

The Province recently discussed commute times and drivers’ woes in a July 27 article. It explains how commuters change behind the wheel in an interview with Belcerra resident Dan Fel: “I’m a very calm, happy person, [but] the drive to and from work cuts to the core of me. It changes me as a person. I become irate.”

After my drive I went into a coffee shop, and, to my relief, gazed upon people who were indeed happy and smiling. So, it must be something specific about driving. But what?

I personally look forward to occasions that necessitate driving long distances to out-of-the-way appointments. Call me crazy, but I actually believe driving can be fun. This might be is because I look at my relationship with my vehicle differently than most.

Let me explain. For the longest time, I perceived putting on a seatbelt as a process of strapping myself to the vehicle. I believe this is the way most drivers think. The problem is that being strapped tightly to a massive hunk of metal is not exactly a comforting idea. It kind of makes your vehicle feel like a giant death trap.

But then my thinking changed. Who says I’m strapped to my vehicle? Couldn’t it be strapped to me, like some cool, robotic extension of my body? After all, I’m the one in control, not the car. And for me, this subtle change made driving feel a lot less like a form of imprisonment.

But not feeling imprisoned isn’t the same thing as feeling happy. The second half of the equation that turned me into a happy driver fell into place when I realized my car had the ability to act as my own personal karaoke booth. And in a car on the freeway, who is there to hear you? Even if someone does happen to look your way and notice you pouring your heart out, you’ll pass them momentarily, never to see them again.

UC Berkeley did a survey of 7,515 adults and found that the average person spent 101 minutes per day driving. That’s more than seven per cent of a person’s life spent behind the wheel of a car.

So why not have some fun, put together a playlist, and sing along? Or maybe listen to one of the thousands of great podcasts and audiobooks just waiting to be devoured. Only boring people are bored.

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