Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Unpopular Opinion: I Hate Driving

"Well sure, lots of people dislike driving," you think.

No, I hate driving.

"Sure, lots of people hate traffic jams and speedsters and --"

No, I hate driving.  Not just hate it, but fear it.

Let me back up a little.  I don't hate all driving.  I actually enjoy driving to some extent, like on curving country back roads.  Driving across town?  No problem.

It's when I need to drive long distances on the freeway that the hate and fear come in waves.  By long distances, I mean more than 20 miles.

I can't fully explain where the hate/fear came from.  It arose not long after I first started driving, when I realized that 65 mph on the freeway was kind of fast!  It is probably mainly centered around issues of control: driving is one of the more dangerous activities in this country, and I really prefer keeping my risk of death or bodily injury low, thanks.

Then there is the claustrophobia element: stuck in one car, one position, for possibly hours at a time.  Your back hurting, neck and arms aching, attention flagging.  Who wants that?  It's a ringing endorsement for driverless cars.

Yet despite these problems, the general attitude is that you should just be able to get into your car and drive anywhere without reservation.  Even if you can get to the same place via public transportation.  Public transit is typically treated like the red-headed stepchild, often with good reason -- there just isn't enough of it, ranging widely enough, for it to be a reliable alternative.  Yet even when it is just as good, it is frequently overlooked.

At best, I get frustrated and tired when I drive long distances.  At worst, I work my way into a panic.  My heart beats faster.  My breathing quickens.  My hands get clammy.  Exits less than one mile away suddenly seem like outposts at the other end of vast terrains, which I will never, ever reach.  Driving in the middle lane feels like balancing on a high wire.  And overpasses?  Bridges?  *sounds of hyperventilating*

I've read stories about people stuck on overpasses or bridges because they are just so overwhelmed by fear.  That has never been me, but in the back of my mind, I always worry that it could be me... someday.  Yet because I understand I can't turn my back on driving altogether, I try to find coping mechanisms.

What I wish was that the world could be just a bit more accommodating of other options.

How about trains that run more than three times a day in a certain direction?

How about routes without 10 transfers, that make it three times as long to get to a destination as a car?

How about an alternative to buses that make 20 stops along a five-mile stretch?

How about public transit that leaves earlier and returns later?

How about public transit that goes faster and covers more routes?

How about public transit that doesn't make you feel like a squashed bug on most trips?

Or, if you must get there by car, but don't want to take your car, how about cabs that don't charge $$$ per hour?

How about a break from relentless car culture?  More and more people prefer public transportation, and the demand is high.  Yet too many bosses, city planners, and developers fail to account for this, sending people to far-flung areas with no alternative but their car.

My work has me doing more driving than ever, to places at least an hour away.  Public transportation to one location would have involved two transfers, and even if I took one of the earliest buses, I still would have arrived a half hour late.

In some ways, it is gratifying to face my fears and know that I can succeed despite them.

At the same time, I would rather be taking the train.

"Just what do you think you're doing, Dave?"
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1 comment:

  1. I can relate. I don't hate driving, per se, but i hate driving someplace I've never been, and I hate driving in or around large cities (no matter how many times I've done it before.) And I hate driving in snow or "winter mix". However, living on the edge of rural farm country, driving is the only option. Fortunately, I don't mind staying home a lot.