Traffic – a slow, painful re-evaluation of your purpose in life.
It really wasn’t that long ago that I couldn’t even imagine driving to Toronto, let alone driving through the city and on the 401 weekly. Life is funny that way. It likes to laugh at you.
It tests your patience and challenges you.
I’ve always wondered how people do the commute to Toronto, but never really understood the immense insanity behind that answer until I started driving to Toronto for work four years ago. Reality set in, that in traffic the worst part of you can emerge.
You are faced with impatience, anger, annoyance, and all those sort of negative feelings that rear their ugly heads. You begin to judge people and criticize everyone’s ability behind the wheel. You also start to realize that your rational mind can’t possibly enjoy driving anymore.
Because you aren’t really driving – you are navigating your vehicle on the edge of Neverland and you are susceptible to every wingding around you. It’s a sort of bumper cars temptation, but without the intended bumping (for most).
Oh you like driving? Spoiler Alert - Not anymore.
I used to like driving. I found it peaceful – a time to reflect and enjoy the quiet. When I’m with the kids it’s a chance to sing aloud as a chorus of crazy people. I loved family car rides. I loved enjoying the scenery of nature and always felt safe behind the wheel of a car when I was in control, because I’m a control freak.
But GTA traffic sucks the life out of any enjoyment you can get from driving. This is especially true when you drive a nice car meant for going and not stopping. I drive a Dodge Charger and it prefers to go. And with the best intentions of getting somewhere, you leave at a certain time.
Not when going to Toronto. You need a good, solid six hour buffer to arrive on time.
Along the way you could possibly encounter the following:
Car accidents: These are all levels of seriousness. Thankfully it usually just a little fender bender because someone wasn’t paying attention.
Airplanes: You could encounter airplanes. It’s remarkable. Flying right over your head. It also seems to slow down traffic. People like to look at them. We are adults people, and we’ve all seen an airplane. Moving along.
Clouds: There could be potentially a dragon cloud in the sky that reminds you of your childhood friend Pete. I imagine this must be a reason traffic gets backed up.
Construction: Never-ending ripping up and fixing of road. It is a constant reason for slow downs everywhere. It’s like you get excited to get moving and then you see the bright, flashing arrow that alerts you to every car now in the right lane who has to squish into your lane.
Tire parts: I’m always amused at the ability of a tire to shred into tiny pieces while moving. I don’t want mine to do that, but clearly it happens enough that I see one every time I drive.
Broken-down cars: CAA and I are now good friends. I’ve seen too many people sitting with frowns on the side of the road, clearly attempting to get help after their car quit. I am awe-struck that more people don’t do this if they drive frequently.
Let’s discuss manners for a moment. We were all taught (I presume) to say please and thank you. But nobody remembers manners when they get behind the wheel of a car. Be courteous, be helpful, be patient. So for those who can’t get a grasp on how driving manners work on the road, I’ve created a set of Etiquette Rules to explain it.
Etiquette Rules in order to drive in traffic:
1. Understand what the left lane is for. I’ll explain for those who are confused. It is what I like to call MY lane. It is for all those drivers who feel confident enough to drive more than 20 kms above the speed limit. Please don’t show this to your friendly policeman neighbour. This lane is designed for passing. You pass and then either continue to pass, or get the hell over and let others pass. If you see someone coming up your tail going faster than you, move OVER safely and respect the fact that people like me, are willing to risk a speeding ticket to get where we are going.
2. If you drive a big truck, I understand you think you are bigger than most, but I drive a faster car and although you can run me off the road, I can get out of the way quicker. Now we understand each other? Perfect! You are legally obligated to stay out of my left lane. If I catch you in there, I will frown. Please stay over to the right so as to not impede the flow of traffic.
3. Blinkers – they are not a new concept on cars. It is actually illegal for you to not use a blinker when switching lanes. It is exceptionally rude not to use them, because it helps other drivers know what you are about to do (even if it’s stupid).
4. If there is someone trying to merge into traffic, for shit sakes let them in!! Do you know how incredibly dangerous, let alone how rude it is to not let someone in when they are running out of road?? Be kind. They will pay it forward one day to someone else.
5. If you are merging into traffic, here are the rules. Get your ass moving! You cannot expect to come off the ramp and creep your way into five lanes of traffic without hitting the gas pedal and actively finding a safe place to get in. Don’t put your blinker on and then sit there and expect the entire 401 to stop and wait for you.
Generally you should actually speed up and merge all the way at the end of the merge lane, but in theory sometimes you have to get in when you can. Do your part!
6. If your GPS is having a bad day, and you realize last minute that you are going to miss your off-ramp, DON’T attempt to cross over 3 lanes to get off! Just curse your stupid google maps and take the next off-ramp like 300 ft away. In the same regard, if you realize you are in the wrong exit lane, don’t cut off the driver beside you to try and sneak back in while your lane disappears. Just get off and get back on!
7. For those of you who are pedestrians in Toronto traffic, do you notice the drivers at all? Are you trying to die on a daily basis? I guess this is more of a question than a rule.
8. Horns are for limited use. If you choose to honk at someone, you better have a good reason. Did you know that honking at someone can actually be dangerous? I’ve had the shit scared out of me by a driver. But it scared me, which caused my reflexes to light up and my stress level to rise. Never mind that I had my eyes off the road, looking in the direction of the horn. A horn is to warn others of a dangerous situation, not cause one. It isn’t there for your pleasure or impatience. Get off the damn horn so much! It just pisses people off.
9. This isn’t actually a rule, but I want it to be. If you drive on the 401 or in GTA more than once a week, you should have to take a special course. Why you ask? Because it’ll help you not be a dink. Included in the course, will be mindful meditation to help teach patience. I feel like there should be a course for pedestrians too, but gawd that’s pathetic.
10. You are allowed to turn up the music and sing at the top of your lungs to entertain those around you. Windows down or up, it doesn’t matter. Give er hell!
Is there a Positive Side to Driving on the Worst Highway ever?
I am happy to say that yes, there is a major up to long waits in traffic for me. I like to end things on a positive note!
I have adapted to my inner peace and patience. You adapt or you go crazy. I spent a great deal of time being pissed off, swearing at other drivers under my breath, and hating being in my car. At some point I just resolved to the fact that this was a necessary evil in order to provide support at my fertility clinics. I loved the support piece, but not getting there. I grew mindful while in the car and began to stay in the moment. This was aided by a technique. I turned on my ability for personal growth. I began listening to podcasts, TedTalks, and audio books that actually teach me about growing as a human being.
A big part of the annoyance of traffic is feeling that you are wasting time. We are always in a hurry to get somewhere because time is of the essence. But what we don’t realize is that we have the capacity to find growth in every situation in life. I started realizing that being stuck in traffic was an opportunity. I armed my phone with lists of audio geniuses that I could listen to one after the other. Some of my favs are Tony Robbins, Russell Brand, and John Maxwell. I’ve set aside powerful leaders in audio books. I’ve categorized my interests in TedTalks, so I can hit one after the other and gain some new perspective and understanding through the words of others.
I was always using the excuse that I have no time to listen to things I saw posted… blah, blah, but guess what? Anyone who drives anywhere has time to flip on their Bluetooth and catch a 20 minute TedTalk and grow a little inside their mind. This is the bonus of being forced to slow down. Enjoy the moment and breath. Take in the voice of someone who has knowledge and unique perspective and learn from them. In the presence of space and time, find the positive.
Don’t get me wrong… I still loathe the GTA traffic.
But the good things technology has to offer in the car has helped me to keep my emotions in check and learn how to better relax into the things we can’t control. In the meantime, I’ll design a teleporter.