“Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel.” -Jim Morrison/The Doors
Nearly fifty years ago, smoke from the dumpster fire of my first career still visible in the rear view mirror, I lucked into a job as a bus driver for a large public transit company, serving the San Francisco East Bay. I’m not at all sure why they hired me- the fact that I’d always loved driving doesn’t seem particularly compelling- but, hire me they did, and I spent the next fifteen years driving inner city buses, after which I took early retirement and started the graduate work that, eventually, led me to what I expect to be my final, lasting career, as a psychotherapist.
At first glance, the gap between driving buses and shrinkery seems wide, but I can tell you that driving an inner city bus is, actually, excellent training for a therapist. Perhaps someday, I’ll write a piece on what I mean- but this is not that day.
If you drive in the city, you’ll be happy to know that months of training preceded the day when I actually began to carry passengers, training that has stayed with me to this day, allowing me to drive, nearly accident (or incident) free for those fifty years. (Can you imagine how nervous I am, to be making that statement? The Celtic gods of my forebears knew what to do with braggarts- so, let me just modify that by saying, I’m doing alright so far, thank you.)
I mention this because this spring our grandson, Michael, completed his studies at the University of Portland, and will, this fall, begin his first teaching assignment, as he works toward his graduate degree. And, I mention this, because, for the first time, he is going to have to drive, a skill he hasn’t needed till now. He has asked me to give him “some driving tips”, and, in response, I’ve tried to remember all the things I learned, both on the job, and on the streets, since. I’ve come up with fifteen “do’s and don’t’s” (so far), and it occurred to me that sharing these precepts with my readers might prove useful, and even valuable to you. I’m going to dole them out, three to a post, complete with comments. I’ll give them to you more or less in the order they occurred to me and (with the exception of the first one) not in any order of importance.
As always, I’ll be interested in any feedback, comments or questions you might have. Buckle up; here we go:
- You are driving the vehicle. With few exceptions, no one else is responsible. Your job is to be prepared, as much as is humanly possible, for whatever might happen. -This might seem a little harsh. After all, stuff happens and we can’t be prepared for everything, right? Absolutely true, but my point (to which I’ll be returning frequently), is that we can be prepared for far more than we think, if we form good habits. Almost every unfortunate thing that happens out there, happens because we missed something, ignored something that we would have seen if we’d been paying attention, failed to prepare for what might happen, or were driving too fast. It’s on us. This was driven home (no pun intended) when I had a minor scrape, early on, and I tried to tell the Supervisor about what the other driver did. He stopped me, and said, “You were behind the wheel, right?” Right. “Well, then, you should have seen this coming and avoided it.” Right. Point taken.
- In traffic, be aware of, and prepare for, what could happen, not what you think will happen- or what you think “should” happen. – This is a biggie. Whatever we’re doing, we have expectations of others, and this extends to the streets. So often, we expect other drivers to do the reasonable thing, just as we would- to not suddenly pull out in front of you; to stop at a stop sign or light, to not stop abruptly for no reason we can see. Most of the time this works…except when it doesn’t. A good driver is always preparing for the other driver to do the unexpected thing, asking herself how she will react when he fails to stop, or suddenly pulls into her path. Consciousness is your friend, (even when the habit becomes unconscious). Be conscious of what the other driver- who might be confused, stoned, drunk; you don’t know- could do, and be ready. Don’t let wishful thinking drive. That woman taking her sick cat to the vet isn’t watching for you. Watch out for her.
- Never drive too fast for conditions. This means, even if conditions dictate a speed slower than the posted limit, travel at that, slower, speed. If you cannot safely stop for a suddenly presenting condition- a child running into the street, for example- you are driving too fast.
– This is about consciousness, again; seems to be a reoccurring theme. As you are driving, you are (because you’re a good driver) aware of conditions: kids playing, construction, rain-slick streets, and factor them into your speed. It’s about awareness, and being prepared for the unexpected, but it’s also about physics. Even if you have good reflexes, the amount of distance it will take for your car to stop, or maneuver around a suddenly presented obstacle, will largely depend on how fast you are traveling. The laws of physics apply here (as they do everywhere, as far as I know). See that your speed allows you to react safely.
And, let’s stop there, for now. I’ve got about a dozen more- I’ll probably think of a few more, as well- and I’ll parcel them out, every week or so. I hope you find some of this useful. Please let me know, and I’ll be seeing you down the trail- whatever your mode of transportation. Thanks for reading, and…
be well. -Buff