Driving your car – watching other people
Watching somebody you know well drive a car can be an interesting experience. Are they considerate to their passengers comfort? Do they stick to the speed limits or exceed them? Are they considerate of other drivers too?
And then there’s us…
When I was younger you may not have wanted me driving your car. My then partner liked to drive fast and had one of those detectors so he could tell when the police were lurking over the next hill with their speed detectors. It was plain to see that he clearly believed he was above the law and would stay there, thank you.
I didn’t drive as fast as him but I certainly picked up the habit of tail-gating and being quite an aggressive and fast driver. I would spend a lot of my driving time in impatience and tagging people’s rears of their cars at speed. Not nice at all for anyone. And it was costly on my brakes and tires…and that’s why you probably wouldn’t want me driving your car.
As I matured as a UK driver
One of my longest days was a 7 hour drive from Wales to East Sussex. It was seven hours because of the traffic. It’s hard to stay angry and consistently be an aggressive driver under those circumstances so I learned to calm down and accept my lot. As a result over time I became a better driver.
Driving in Italy!
Now THAT was an education. Italian culture is of course very different to British culture. I stayed in Vicenza (Northern Italy) for a while and learned to drive with the appropriate hand signals. There is a lot of overtaking on sharp mountain passes but it’s all taken in with a shot of Italian cool and a wave of the hand. I had access to a BMW with racing pedals, so was able to zip around with the best of them. The style is to demonstrate ability but not take it too far. At least, in Vicenza!
Driving your car in the United States
OK now this is a whole different kettle of fish. I have driven a car in the States of Virginia, Southern Maryland, California and currently Kansas. I can honestly say that the driving experience has been completely different in each place, perhaps because each place seems to demonstrate a unique mindset.
I quickly learned (from driving in Virginia) that the European culture of merging and allowing cars to join from on-ramps did not exist in the same way. That was a learning curve. Honestly there was quite the culture of ‘every driver for him/herself’ and driving your car (once again) needed to be an aggressive experience. And green lights? Count to 10 after the green light has changed in Virginia Beach or you may find yourself driving into oncoming traffic despite having the right of way.
Southern Maryland is a quieter location although now the number of lanes added to some roads down there now exceeds 5 lanes per side I believe. A lot of the roads were country lanes and overall the experience was quite pleasant. Perhaps less people and the energy of the Potomac and Patuxent Rivers make people a little more chilled out. Put on your hard hat if you have to drive the Beltway around DC however!
California…what can I say. San Diego was memorable in that it seemed to have a driving culture that is a mixture from many countries, and of course it’s close to the Mexican border too. Wild and woolly, packed with traffic, (almost) anything goes and on the freeway go as fast as you can. Quieter where we lived (Lemoore CA) but watch out for the enormous trucks hauling tomatoes and the like because you will be mincemeat.
Here we come to the part about driving your car as a spiritual practice!
I am sorry Kansas folk but as drivers (certainly in Wichita) you are one of the sleepiest crowds I have come across, driving-wise. Maybe it’s the grid-like layout, maybe it’s the lack of traffic – I would certainly not complain about a lack of traffic having lived in London and Brighton, UK. Wichita drivers are conservative for sure but then occasionally all that quiet energy gets pent up and released in a major fit of road rage! I have seen a Wichita driver beat their steering wheel just because a light changed or somebody stopped at a light in front of them when they would have preferred them to go. Perhaps some folks here would like to try the M25!
Some tips for driving your car as a spiritual practice and to create better energy on the roads
Driving has been a winding journey for sure, and will continue. Drivers and their behavior can always be surprising, but most dangerous of course when they are unpredictable or lacking conscious awareness.
Here are my 6 tips for spending some driving time as a spiritual practice
- BE PRESENT! Over the years in my rear-view mirror I have spied people curling their hair with heated tongs, eating a sandwich, picking various noses (who hasn’t done that – be truthful now) and the worst new disease – texting or talking on a non hands-free phone. Stay present and aware and be conscious that you are driving, not using your driving time as a chance to catch up on other things. You are zipping along in a metal container at speed!
- MAKE YOUR CAR A NO PHONE ZONE LIKE OPRAH SAYS. I’ll be the first to admit that I am useless at using a phone and driving, in fact I’m a downright danger so don’t do it at all. Just because you might be better than me doesn’t mean you should do it too though. If the phone rings and I am alone, I pull over if I know I’m waiting for an important call. If you work a lot on your phone, get hands free…it’s not the greatest idea but it could save your life. If I have the girls in the car then they answer the phone for me. When it’s their turn to learn to drive, texting and driving will not be acceptable because I DON’T DO IT!
- LEAVE APPROPRIATE STOPPING DISTANCE AND WEAR A SEAT BELT. Last year on the first day of school a teenage girl drove into the back of my car stopped at a red light with my young daughter inside. We were strapped in. Her younger brother in the passenger seat was not. He went through the windshield of their car head first (and this was in a 40mph limit). I remember getting out of the car and seeing the driver sitting there with her phone in her hand. Nuff said. My daughter and I were not the ones who had to go to the hospital.
- CLEAR THE SNOW, DUST OR WHATEVER CRAP THAT IS FROM YOUR REAR WINDSHIELD/WINDSCREEN. You are supposed to be able to see out of the back! It enables you to drive better and give you (and other drivers) a better driving experience.
- BE KIND TO OTHER DRIVERS EVEN IN YOUR MIND – NO NAME CALLING OR BAD HAND SIGNALS ALLOWED. Even if they are really annoying you…try and avoid calling them names (even with your inside voice) and imagine a kind reason for their behavior. If that’s impossible, then just stay away from them, clear your energy of any anger and irritation and move on.
- TAKE TIME TO DEEP BREATHE AND ENJOY SILENCE. You don’t need to play music all the time, or try and do something else. You are practicing the skill of mindful driving. Take it easy. I enjoy my quiet drives to school to pick up the girls. It gives me a break in the day.