Mindful Driving Behavior: Reflecting on the Ghosts of COVID Past, Present, and Future
In Charles Dickens’ timeless holiday classic, A Christmas Carol, three ghosts – Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future – visit the miserly and mean-spirited character of Scrooge on Christmas Eve. The mission of each of these apparitions is to travel through time to demonstrate to Scrooge the “error of his ways” with the hopes that this forewarning will transform him.
Before uttering the infamous, “Bah, Humbug,” let us briefly consider the message this adaptation can provide regarding the last three years of COVID restrictions.
Truly, I believe many of the lessons we learned at a very early age, all revolving around basic good manners, seem to have been forgotten during COVID. Since we all rely on other members of society on a daily basis, consider the following questions: in a public setting (your choice – meeting, restaurant, parking lot, market, phone conversation, etc.), when was the last time you heard a sincere, please, thank you, or I’m sorry? Has someone recently held the door open for you when entering or exiting a building? Conversely, how often have you been interrupted by someone’s cell phone, loud voice, lateness, or other similar behaviors? (I feel like these questions need a rhetorical answer to transition to the next paragraph. The way it’s written currently feels very abrupt).
However, despite all of the above examples, perhaps our own unique sense of self-importance is best manifested when driving. The mere thought of being behind the wheel (Power – yes! Control – yes!) seems to accelerate the need for speed. Nearly everyone today seems to be in a hurry to get nowhere faster to try to recapture lost time – a “ME FIRST” movement, if you will. After three years, we have certainly learned that time is a most precious and valuable commodity, not to be wasted getting to and from our destination. During COVID, many folks didn’t venture far from home. Today, it seems the number of vehicles has not only doubled but also increased exponentially – who are all these people and where are they all going in such a hurry? Were there always this many trucks, vans, and SUVs on the road, or – once the infamous “chip shortage” was over – did everyone simply buy new larger tank-like modes of transportation? Of course, for the higher price tags, these innovative models are complete with such safety features as navigation devices and hands-free voice control – all in an effort to improve the quality of the driving experience and limit distractions.
While most of us are not in any rush to recreate our initial driver training, in the hopes of currently designing a more enjoyable driving experience, perhaps a brief refresher is in order. Certainly, some of us are out of practice since COVID, while others may be complacent.
Inspired by British author, Simon Griffin, here are a few mindful driving tips to keep in mind while we reflect on the ghosts of COVID’s past:
- Carefully consider which lane you are in while you are driving – are you passing, taking an exit, or impacting the flow of traffic in a negative manner? Once you’ve chosen the appropriate lane, stay in it – don’t drift from side to side; have a plan and be mindful to your driving behavior and to others on the road.
- Leave sufficient room between your vehicle and the one in front of you – especially when driving on highways at a rapid speed. No need to antagonize others — we’re not on a race track or in bumper cars.
- Speaking of speed, note that speed limit signs are not mere suggestions, they are the law.
- When parking, stay within the lines – again, they are there for a reason, as are handicapped spaces.
- Be especially cautious near motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrian crossings.
- When turning, indicate your intention well in advance – this does not mean using a right turn signal from the far left lane while immediately cutting across two or three rows of traffic.
- Avoid distractions – loud music, phone and text messages, unruly passengers, and newfangled gadgets previously noted.
- Remember, the breakdown lane is aptly named – it is for breakdowns, not to be used as an extra passing lane on the right side of the highway.
- We all make inadvertent mistakes while driving – rather than demonstrating your vocal prowess or digital dexterity as a response, a simple shoulder shrug or hand wave as apology can avert numerous cases of road rage.
- Finally, leave yourself plenty of time to get to your desired destination – sadly, everything seems to take more time and effort these days, so avoid the panic of speeding, tailgating, cutting off other vehicles and, simply enjoy the ride!
Perhaps the spirits will not be able to change the “error of our ways” overnight – however, good manners, similar to A Christmas Carol, are timeless. If we can practice kindness, generosity, responsibility, and PATIENCE perhaps, we can leave our little corner of the world better than we found it.
Best wishes for a prosperous and COVID-free 2023!