Observations from Behind the Wheel

I drove a car yesterday. I was originally excited about it because of the manual transmission, but that quickly faded in about five minutes. Five minutes of blissful manual shifting, anything else while behind the wheel to me is just about the same as being a passenger. I haven’t felt that since I got rid of my Honda Prelude six years ago. Yeah, five minutes was all I needed until it occurred me that being a motorist is a pain in the ass. It was a good reminder though, I don’t like driving, it’s an inefficient, impersonal, and an absolutely aggravating activity.

The whole process seems inherently rushed, inherently aggressive, inherently selfish. Rushed because, no matter how relaxed I tried to be, something would occur that made me have to worry about the time. I swore I left with sufficient time: Yet another red light! Gotta get gas! “Would you mind driving me over the hill?” One interesting thing about driving is the sheer number of interactions you will have with other people along the road, but these interactions are shielded by four tons of steel barricade, how personal can it get? There is very little that is positive, or friendly about these interactions; these are not interactions that enlighten us or bring us closer to humanity or community—quite the opposite seemingly. They are only personal with their aggression, competitiveness, and selfishness; in that we take these interactions as personal affronts to our well-being and punctuality. And the people that think they can make it through the intersection at a yellow light and instead block it, how selfish is that?

Is it really this bad being behind the wheel? Is this a common emotion felt from behind the wheel? The perspective itself, from behind the wheel and windshield, is like that of a computer monitor or television, detached from the reality of the road. Just a façade of isolation from any injurious action.

I normally only drive maybe two or three times a year now, and with that it’s usually a Flexcar. That’s all well and good, but it makes me wonder, is there a distinct difference in attitude from driving your own POS vehicle with that of driving a nicely maintained new car? I don’t know for sure, at least in a nicer car I guess I’m more comfortable, it’s all a façade of comfort though, we’d still rather be at our point of destination, or better yet, safe at home. Driving is something people have to do, not something they desire to do (no matter how cool they make it look in those television ads—albeit, we all know we’re not allowed to drive the way they do in those ads). Were I to own my own “nicer” car, it’d cost me a fortune and it would eventually turn into a POS that would still be costing me a fortune. Good investment!

Even as I sit here in my apartment, far from the road, I can here wheels spinning on icy pavement. I wonder if I can feel that individual’s frustration and anxiousness to get to where they’re trying to go. The feeling that they’re going to “lose the race”. Yesterday, from every intersection along the brief stretch of SR-99, strip mall extending beyond the horizon on either side of me, it felt like a race to the next red light. People revving beside me, jockeying for position, all the while I’m casually attempting to manage the abundant standing water on the road, avoiding the threat of hydroplaning. Still the strip malls were attracting my eyes, it’s another world to me, one I’ve not seen in a long time (and I’m thankful for that) there’s so much to see, and yet it’s all the same, all repetitive, red light to red light. Such distraction, I don’t know what I would’ve done had there been a stereo in the car, or if I had to read directions, or send a text message, damn I was hungry too, thankful I didn’t have something to eat at the same time. Distraction upon distraction. What an existence it must be to have to do that every day. I am not a praying man, but I pray for this: that I never have to rely on a car in this capacity ever again.

Driving a car every now and then helps sustain this notion in my life, it was thoroughly compounded with my experience yesterday. Next time I gotta go to Edmonds or the like, I’ll ride my bike.

4 thoughts on “Observations from Behind the Wheel”

  1. In the 40 degree warmth of Chicago I was thinking the same kind of thoughts. I took advantage of the good weather to joy ride through the day, ended up riding around the neighborhoods to shoot photos of left up Christmas decorations and then decided to get errands done. Later while walking, I got a little bit confused when a man driving and on his cell phone almost ran us over while rushing to get to the on ramp of our portion of 99. He gestured rudely, and I was thinking as I glanced up at the green walking man, really? Not driving really lets you notice drivers more, which is a shame for all of those drivers out there… Same feeling I have when visiting home (Edmonds WA) and seeing all of the drivers in the suburbs…


  2. You completely ignore the possibility that some people might really enjoy driving. You hate driving because you do it so infrequently that any little thing sets you off. But people who spend a lot of time in their cars come to enjoy it. When I used to drive daily I really looked forward to my commute because it allowed me to be by myself with my thoughts.

    I understand this is a bicycle-centric website, but you have a really one-sided, if not hostile approach to your thinking. I thought this was a positive publication.


  3. Actually I hate driving because I used to do it extremely frequently. I’ve made a choice to change my ways and my life, a big so what if others enjoy driving. This post wasn’t meant to offend. In all honesty though, I’d think the majority of people would be fooling themselves if they said they actually enjoyed driving. Especially, if they have to spend a lot of time in their cars. Just my opinion though. I don’t think anyone should be silly enough to take it as hostile either—at any rate, it is just my opinion.

    I can certainly think of many other activities that allow for inward thinking that is wildly more satisfying. Being behind the wheel isn’t exceptional at all in that regard. And what’s with the single-occupant vehicle anyway?


  4. I have been a city dweller for over 20 years. During those years, yes, I drove a car, but was also able to ride my bike or walk more than four days a week. I either rode a bike or my Vespa. During all those years, I learned that Two wheels vs. Four was complicated and somewhat dangerous, but all the while worth it.

    Now I live in the trendy burbs, can’t walk or ride anywhere that is safe without getting into my car and driving somewhere, then ride or walk… blather, blather. I miss the city and can’t wait to get back.

    Since living in the Burbs, I have had the most enjoyable experience, with sarcasm, and an epiphany. One day while sitting on 495 at 5 o’clock I realized I had been at a stand still for about 15 minutes with stop and go driving 5 miles per hour. Then it occurred to me while calculating the math as I sit pondering the 40 miles I have yet to travel.

    I looked around as other drivers were trying to occupy their time just as I was. The exception was that most ,if not all the other drivers were on their daily commute. My time on the beltway was rare, five times a year at most.

    I counted maybe 50 other cars in my view next to me, behind me, in front of me…surrounded by parked cars…nothing moving. Then I calculated just how many cars were on all the beltways up the entire East coast. I became horrified when I realized that millions of other cars were sitting with their engines running just as I was at 5 o’clock on a Monday.

    Personally, I can’t comprehend the notion that millions of people get in their cars everyday and drive 5 miles per hour. It is utterly senseless and most definably not enjoyable, and most certainly a waste of precious life.

    I see no hostility anywhere on this bicycle-centric website. Rather I see from all the correspondences a bunch of passion, interest, and sharp intellectual conversations. If looking at the big picture as I was able to see, hopefully more will come to same conclusion. That in order to change, we need more thought provoking action to discourage the use of the automobile and find better ways to get from point A to point B.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s