Like every other lemming, I drove to work today. I pulled out of the driveway at 7:26, and arrived at my destination at 7:55. For a wonderful 29 minutes I was a member of the heard, although not really as I have this odd habit of making eye contact with other drivers. Clearly it unnerves them, as often they gesture frantically at the pole or guard rail I’m drifting towards. Casually, as if everything is normal, I calmly drift back into my appropriate lane of travel.
Some people are very high strung.
Regardless of this particular habit, I’m the type of driver other drivers hate. Unlike them, my objective is not to arrive at my destination in record time, nor am I interested in removing my side mirrors, or crumpling my front bumper. I know I have a bit of a wild and natural look when it comes to my appearance, but I’m not trying to rearrange my car’s metal back into its naturally rough shape.
Therefore, I like to maintain more then one body length between myself and the leading vehicle, unless of course that vehicle is a large truck, in which case, I will draft within inches to improve my fuel economy. Fuel efficiency and safety are my main goals, irrespective of societal norms, time constraints or other unwritten rules of the road.
I bring this topic up today because I witnessed an accident the other night, and just this week set a new personal record for miles per gallon in my Mazda 3. I bring up the accident because as a newer parent suddenly vehicle safety is a topic of conversation, “are you putting the car seat in the middle, that’s the safest but involves some climbing.”
But no one ever mentions that despite the best safety features , one can’t control a driver with only her permit, driving her boyfriend’s parent’s car, freaking out at low speeds and shaving off a mirror. I witnessed this low speed collision while outside mowing; I did my best to hide my mild amusement as the two youngsters were a touch distraught.
The best safety feature is to spend less time at high speeds while strapped to several tons of metal. Yet this is never discussed. Recently, I walked, using my own legs, to the store to grab some milk, even my wife looked at me oddly, although I suspect she knew I was also getting some free time outside the house. I’m not sure what she was expecting anyway, convenience store plastic bags are not nearly strong enough to carry several tons of vehicle. I maybe could have gotten there, but my hands would have been full once the milk was factored in, making the return trip with the vehicle impractical.
Driving less is not only safer, but cheaper as well. According to internet sources my vehicle, driven 15,000 miles per year, with fuel costing $2.54 per gallon would cost just over $1,500 per year. If I could cut my driving in half, I could save over $700 which is a drop in the bucket when compared to a yearly salary, but when compared to my school loans, it could allow me to make an extra payment with plenty to spare.
When I’m driving to work, these thoughts are far from my mind. Rather I’m busy scanning traffic for brake lights and far off stop signs. I take my cues for driving from riding my bike. Confounding drivers to my rear, I coast whenever possible, attempting to use the brakes only for emergencies. I keep the speed to the speed limit, inspiring my wife to consider filing divorce paperwork from the highway, thankfully that’s not possible or I’m sure she would have done it on occasion.
Instead, she gives me a look that says, “really is this necessary.” It’s the same look I get when discussing the placement of my dirty workout clothes, leaving dishes in the sink, or putting empty containers back into the refrigerator. I get the look often; bless her. Anyway, just this past week, I finally cracked 400 miles on one tank of gas. Its been a goal ever since my wife stopped driving the car and our tank mileage went from around 325 miles to 375 miles. Like the 4 minute mile, I knew 400 miles was possible, and yesterday, with the gas light burning my retinas, I pulled up to the pumps with 401.1 staring back in my direction.
Unlike the birth (labor) of my most recent child, which I contributed only hand holding and unheard words of encouragement, this was an accomplishment that required my full effort and concentration. So if you see me out walking, or coasting to the next stop sign, 3 miles up the road, I’m either practicing efficient living, or escaping the house for some peace and quiet.