Cockpit View

Gearhead (photo taken by jesus garcia)

Owning more than one car means having more than one start-up routine. For my own cars, it can range from having to pump the gas before turning the key, waiting more than two minutes to warm up or opening the hood because the damned battery didn’t hold its charge again. During my daily drive, I feel the need to wait 30 seconds before shifting into gear to allow the fluids to circulate and prevent wear and tear. All these moments spent in the car before setting off allows my mind to wander off and forget about the daily grind.

I’ve always loved driving; even before I could reach the pedals, I knew it was something special. Even some non-Gearheads have told me they love going on drives just to clear their heads of a stressful situation or hectic day. Few things in this world can wash the day away better than empty stretch of road, a car and a favorite playlist on the radio.

The other day, I was having one of those days where you wake up with a chip on your shoulder. It could have been from an odd dream or sleeping well, but that day every little thing was sending my mind into a hurricane of annoyance and disgust. Let’s face it, we all have problems and schedules to keep up with and sooner or later it gets to us.

After I was done with school for the day, I walked to my little Mazda, planning to drive somewhere to get something to eat, but was not sure what I was in the mood for. As I turned the key and waited for those 30 seconds, as i always do, my mind wandered and came back with a thought that completely mellowed me out.

In life, we are rarely in a situation where we have a task to complete and have everything we need to handle it at arm’s reach. If its school, you might have to go to a library or search the internet for the material you need to study or complete your homework. At work you might have to drive to different locations, work with co-workers or deal with annoying customers. And if you have a family, like wife and kids or Mom and Dad, you definitely know what I am talking about. As I sat in the car staring at the interior, my only task was to drive myself to a restaurant. It dawned on me that everything I needed to complete this task was at my fingertips. I had a steering wheel, gear shifter, three pedals and the skill needed to get where I need to go.

We often overlook the joys of driving because we are constantly thinking of the next thing on our to-do list. Modern technology is trying to take away the simple pleasures of motoring with safety features that allow the car to make decisions before you can even begin to think about how to react. I never agreed with blind spot detection, over bearing traction and stability control and auto braking. Frankly, if you’re the type of person who needs a car to tell you that you have someone in your blind spot, help you turn a corner and stop you from hitting a car in front of you, then you might be better off taking the bus. However, if this technology stops a kid with a learners permit hopped up on Starbucks and blasting rave music from running into my Camaro, then God bless those brilliant engineers.

The next time you’re in the car, try to leave the outside world at the door. The only task in your head should be the destination. If you are going to work, the only thing you need to focus on while inside the car is “I need to take this route to get here”, not what you need to do once you get there. Those thoughts will enter your mind once you step out of the car. We have too many things running around in our heads; even in our sleep, most of us do not get the rest we need because we are constantly thinking of the next task at hand.

We spend a good chunk of our lives inside the interior of a car, so let that space be the one area in life where you let your mind rest and focus on one task, which is simply to drive and maybe have a good time doing it. We don’t need a 1962 Jaguar E type convertible and a road on the French Riviera to enjoy driving, not that it wouldn’t be unbelievably amazing. All you need is a car, a road and a clear head.

Driving is a simple skill if you are focused on the task at hand which is getting from point A to point B. If we complicate the situation with cellphones, food and drink, a laptop in the center dashboard or ear-numbingly loud music, then we are merely creating more stress for ourselves.

The next time you’re in your car about to go somewhere, stop and take a really deep breath and set aside the to-do list. Worry about where you need to go – not what you have to do.