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In The Bleak Mid-Winter

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

The DriveWrite Archives

In The Bleak Mid-Winter

Geoff Maxted
DriveWrite
August 16, 2013


Winter Windshield
As I write this it is raining but it’s warm and slightly humid and I am wearing shorts. The working day so far has been pleasant, yet I am beset by a sombre mood. The rain reminds me that Winter is not far away. Apart from the horror of knowing that as I pass one of many shops probably from around late September I will hear Wizard’s “I wish it could be Christmas every day” blaring out of some brainless retail outlet or other, I’m also getting bad vibes about the prospects of winter driving. We always get caught out.

Imagine this scene because, before you know it, it will be appearing in front of you like some vision of hell. It’s 7am on a cold Monday morning. Ice is going to be a hazard on the roads and you have a touch of bronchitis (or man-flu as it is known) but you must still get the car out and drive to work. With a sinking heart you just know you’re in for forty five minutes of blue murder. Welcome to the world of the daily winter commute.

The nature of our climate and the tragic standard of our roads stand between you and your job; but that’s not all. The philosopher Jean-Paul Satre is quoted as saying ‘hell is other people’ and remember, he worked from home. That might be a little unkind to our fellow man but a fifth of drivers wish their fellow road users would be a little more considerate and take a bit more care.

Car commuting will obviously vary depending on where you live. For some it may be a pleasant country drive when the sun always shines but for most it is a daily grind we could do without. Research has shown that stress levels amongst regular drivers is rising and a third of motorists admit to this. When you consider that most work drivers travel pretty much the same route for over two hundred days of the year, it is hardly surprising. Arriving at work completely stressed out is no way to start the day and driving home tired is just plain dangerous.

There is also the worry of cost. Petrol is expensive and sales of it are dropping as motorists find ways around it. Because they lose revenue accordingly, governments think the best plan is to raise taxes on fuel still further. If a product is selling poorly it is a good idea to lower the price rather than raise it. Cheaper fuel would help drivers, boost the economy and increase revenues. It would also relieve one of the worries of car use and perhaps even make winter commuting a bit more bearable.

So what’s to be done to make this part of your working day a bit less of a stressful chore? Here’s some tips that may help, bearing in mind that things are always easier said than done.

Give yourself more time. It may be a wrench getting out of a warm bed but why not leave earlier? Possibly much earlier. If your journey takes an hour, allow an hour and a half. You may get to your employment early but at least you’ll have time for a coffee and a chance to rest and relax a bit.

Try to stay calm when all about you are getting fraught. Play relaxing music (note: AC/DC are not relaxing but I’d draw the line at Enya). Keep your interior environment clean and at a comfortable ambient temperature. Carry a favourite snack and have a refreshing drink to hand, especially if you are one to skip breakfast. A hungry driver is a grumpy driver. It might be an idea if possible to plan alternative routes to vary the boredom and if your employer will allow it, try to commute outside of peak times.

I am very sorry that I have to bring this up at the beginning of Autumn as I understand you will feel that I am being a bit previous; but preparing your car and yourself for a safe Winter of driving makes sense even if it evokes all these negative waves. In short, do everything you can to make this part of your life more bearable.

Never forget the immortal words of Master Po: ‘Grasshopper, each journey begins and also ends’. D‘you know what - I‘ve never really thought about like that.



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