Confessions of the Road Warrior

By Christopher Nagy

I like to think that I’m a well-reasoned and relatively calm and considerate individual.

However, I never fully realized how many lunatics are out there until I started commuting to work.

A brief explanation: For roughly two decades, I worked approximately three blocks from my office. I typically drove into work every day because the use of my vehicle was often required for my job, but there were occasions when I rode my bike to work or even walked in my car was snowed under the courtesy of the passing plows.

My current occupation, on the other hand, now requires a roughly 40-minute trek to and from the office each day – and let’s just say that in the year and a half of commuting, I’ve discovered that my patience hasn’t quite reached Job-like heights. In my defense, if my faith in humanity and the kindness of strangers has been put to the test from time to time, it’s because there are some people behind the wheel at 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. who have completely gone around the bend and devolved into “Lord of the Flies” levels of behavior.

Although my fellow motorists seem to bask in pushing the limits of my sanity, I can’t lay the entire blame at their feet – or wheels, as the case may be. Human instinct forces us to adapt to whatever surroundings we find ourselves in, which is why some of the responsibility needs to be pinned on the sadistic infrastructure engineer who designed the stretch of U.S. 127 from Kalamazoo Street south to roughly eastbound Interstate 96. I like to think of this evil genius sitting in a darkened lair somewhere, stroking a white cat and cackling maniacally at the havoc and mental anguish he or she has wrought on the driving public.

It’s hard out there. According to a study of 2,800 commuters by the global human resources consulting firm Robert Half International, a full 50% reported that the trip to and from work is stressful. (And I’m guessing the other 50% are fully taking advantage of the state’s new recreational marijuana law. I’m kidding!)

Fortunately, a blog on the Robert Half website offered several tips to help drivers survive the daily commuting combat:

  • Time is on my side: Heed the advice from Mick and Keith and give yourself some extra lead in the morning. Leaving just 15 minutes earlier than usual can help reduce the stress on the road. Let all those other yahoos jockey for the position while you remain cool and collected. Your co-workers will thank you because you won’t be arriving at the office, ready to bite someone’s head off.
  • Put Speed Racer in a pit stop: Despite how it seems, it’s not a race. Stop and think about this: How much time are you truly saving by acting like this is Indianapolis or Daytona? Five minutes? Ten? It’s also worth remembering that whatever time you saved will be negated (and then some) as you explain to the unamused state trooper how it sure didn’t seem like you were doing 93 mph, officer.
  • Take the road less traveled: A little research and ingenuity can go a long way when you look into finding alternative routes for your drive. Sure, it may be a bit out of the way, but the scenic route can remove stress, offer much better views and put your head in a good place.

I know all of this sounds like I’m that curmudgeon you’re stuck behind who refuses to get out of the far-left lane as I clock in at a smooth and steady 55 mph. I’m not – and I’m not bagging on all my fellow carburetor comrades out on the roads. I still encounter plenty of you who are safe, responsible and reasonable drivers, and I always appreciate when you return that acknowledgment by letting me know you feel like I’m No. 1.

At least I think that’s what you’re trying to express with those hand gestures.

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