I know when I get up in the morning that I may be facing icy roads on the way to work. The forecast the night before predicted temperatures of -2 C° and snow. That means ice, and maybe slush. Yuck. Forty-five kilometers of slush and sleet on a two-lane highway with other people on the way to work and freight trains camouflaged as trucks on a mission of their own. Everyone is in a hurry.
My goal for this morning is simple, really. I want to stay on the road until I get to the office. So, I gear into my winter driving mindset.
First, I stay philosophical. Calm is better than tension. I will get to work when I get there. Five or ten minutes won’t make a difference.
Second, I shift into ice-driving strategy. As I turn the corner and merge onto the highway, I aim for about 60 km / hr while I test the road. I avoid any slush on the road as long as I stay in the tracks, but I am concerned about black ice that’s impossible to detect at the best of times, never mind in the glare of headlights at dawn. Gradually, I run it up to 90 km / hr. The speed limit is 100 km / hr. I don’t feel comfortable going any faster right now. I keep my wipers on, and I turn them up to high speed when I see a truck barreling toward me in the oncoming lane.
Third, I let other drivers suffer the road rage. Vehicles pull up behind me, and pass. Some are careful as they go by, and settle in just ahead of me. One heavy black half-ton races ahead, spitting up snow, to make a point, I guess.
I am the driver people swear at when they arrive at work on a snowy morning.
“People like that shouldn’t be allowed on the roads. They don’t know how to drive,” they complain.
When I hear those complaints, I readily raise my hand and admit to their face my membership in the club of people others designate as bad winter drivers. “That was probably me,” I add, smiling, looking for the downcast eyes and the fleeting blush that will betray a wisp of embarrassment. However transitory, the disconcertion compensates a little for their smug confidence that their SUV will get them where they want to go at top speed no matter what the road conditions. Maybe they are the ones who don’t know how to drive.
I am a good driver, winter or summer. I am careful. I am conscious of the effect my speed has on the traffic flow. I don’t text. I rarely use the car’s bluetooth capability. I listen to the radio. I like speed as much as anyone, but not at the expense of traveling faster than the traffic or the weather conditions of the day, or my comfort level with both, can bear. It’s not so much my own safety I’m preoccupied with; how could I live with my carelessness hurting someone else?
Fourth, I laugh. I remain unapologetic. If my driving habits help others feel good about their own driving skills, well, then I’ve done them a random act of kindness. On the next intemperate morning, as I diagnose the road to find my comfortable speed, maybe the drivers that line up behind me can pay that RAK forward, and reserve judgment as they pass.