No one is happy stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a four-lane highway, especially when that highway is seemingly the only road between your starting point and your destination. I like to consider myself a walking example of the disdain that goes hand-in-hand with a daily commute.
I commute ~50 minutes to work and back three times a week. But that’s my commute on a good day, or at 7 a.m. before rush hour really starts to hit. If I leave my house or work ten or even just five minutes later than normal, you can find me stuck on the highway for upwards of 75 minutes.
And it is most definitely miserable. This isn’t one of those “every cloud has a silver lining” posts because I can’t think of a single thing that would ever make me say “hey, I’m excited to commute today!” Commutes, particularly long commutes, are directly linked to a lower rate of well-being. Now I know what you’re thinking my STEM folks, “correlation doesn’t equal causation,” but I will go ahead and vouch for the vast majority of commuters when I say in this example, it most certainly does.
However, they do say that misery loves company so if there’s one thing that I can take solace in is knowing that everyone around me wants to get home as quickly as I do. So here’s my message for all of my fellow commuters: chill out.
No one wants to be stuck on the highway with you, and yes, I understand commuting can be rough — you’re preaching to the choir. But if there’s anything that makes a commute even worse, it’s getting frustrated with everything that happens, especially things that you can’t control.
Just last week, I was happily sipping my morning coffee while driving in the middle lane and following the vehicle in front of me at a close, but safe distance. When all of the sudden, I hear someone aggressively honk. Oh, that certainly can’t be someone honking at me, I thought. Oh, but it was. I look in my rearview mirror to see woman driving a Kia Soul (which I can’t take seriously after the hamster commercial) throwing her hands in the air and mouthing “OH, YOU’RE DRINKING YOUR COFFEE” over and over again. She was mad at me because there was a car in the left lane that forced her to wait four seconds to zoom past me, even though I was unable to switch lanes. It was NUTS.
There’s so much more going on in the world to devote your energy and stress to, so why waste that on something as futile as a morning commute? If you do that forever, you’ll be exhausted. And truthfully, there’s very little difference between going 50 mph and 53 mph when there’s a three-mile back-up, so switching in and out of lanes like Frogger won’t really help you get anywhere faster than everyone else.
Through my battle with long commutes, I’ve found specific genres of music or funny/informative podcasts that distract me from the fact that I’m stuck in traffic. I know — listening to podcasts, real groundbreaking advice here. But I think just consciously trying to calm down and realize that we’re all in this together (queue High School Musical dance number) has made my commuting experience even the slightest bit more bearable. I’m obviously in no way immune to the frustrations of commuting, especially when I’m low on caffeine, but stuff like this has definitely helped my state of mind while commuting.
So next time you’re rushing to get somewhere, just breathe for a second and think about the consequences of getting so mad that you drive like a fool.
And to the woman in the Kia Soul, I hope your day got better.