Are you feeling the excitement of landing a dream a job but then feeling the pain of sitting in nightmare traffic to get there? The U.S Census Bureau in 2014 documented that the average American is driving about 26 mins each way to work. So it is important to try to put some of the commute time to good use and make it somewhat enjoyable. The Washington Post Christopher Ingaham writes in The Astonishing Human Potential Wasted on Commutes (2015), “If your commute is the typical 26 minutes each direction, that works out to a total of nine full days a year spent traveling to work and back.” Ingaham goes on to say that most of us are spending 26 mins in each direction getting to work but some of us are driving even longer. 17% of us are driving 45 mins or longer to get to work and back!
Trust me, I’m an expert!
I reside in Los Angeles and I commute about 22 Miles to work but it takes me about 1 and 1 /2 hours to get there in morning rush hour. It is because I am taking the world famous 405 freeway which most Angelino’s call a “parking lot.” It was the freeway of the famous “Carmageddon” and also caused much turmoil last year with a fire spreading along the 405 freeway near the Skirball Center. So I must admit that I must be quite an expert on handling freeway boredom as I sit every day in this stop and go freeway called the parking lot! Believe me, there are some very practical and even legally safe ways to dare I say ENJOY the freeway commute. These tips are especially for those who drive alone.
1. Get intrigued with talk AM radio
I know that listening to the latest top hits is tempting but try switching it up. You can find so many different interesting topics on AM radio. It’s not just weather or news. When I used to get off work late around 10 PM in Los Angeles, I listened to George Norway on KFI 640. He had all these people on his show talking about conspiracies and aliens. It was different and entertaining and a bit creepy too. But hey, it was different. If you have not, cycle through your AM radio list. You may find some interesting stuff that can be different and expand your mind to unique topics and opinions.
2. Beat traffic Blues with News
It is actually a good idea to catch up on the news in the car. It can make you feel productive and you may feel you are doing something useful. I have downloaded the NPR News Now app on my phone. I click the app and it starts to play the stories of the day. The good thing about listening to the news in the car is that you can really get into depth with the topics. The traffic isn’t going anywhere and neither are you!
3. Read Books on Tape with no Eyes
If you are stuck in traffic, it’s a good idea to buy a few books on CD or stream online. I notice that some books have their audio version on YouTube. There are also options for renting audio books from the local library for free. If you want more options, Amazon Kindle subscription service gives you many audio books. Audible also offers the audiobooks for a subscription. The good thing about signing up for Kindle subscriptions, it gives you unlimited access to the library of written books as well as audio books (Don’t let me catch you reading the written version in traffic though!) Listening to stories in this way is a much more exciting thing to do than just sitting in traffic. For me, an hour can go by easily when I am so intrigued by a book. Funny enough, I even feel that I can’t wait for my next long drive to find out what happens to the characters. Self-help books are awesome too because I feel like I am learning something while I drive. That way all the drive time doesn’t feel wasted.
4. You drive while TED talks!
There is a TED talk app that has even hour-long talks on a variety of topics. TED talks are speakers who really dig deep into a particular topic to inform or motivate you. Speaking of motivational talks, Youtube has endless talks on different topics, motivations, and affirmations. These talks can really get you started in the morning! Please don’t watch the video though. Just plug in AUX or Bluetooth and put it facing down as not to get tempted to watch the associated video because it is unsafe. The talks don’t require video and you can just listen to the audio. Youtube also has autoplay or playlists that you can create so that you don’t have to switch videos while driving in traffic.
5. Chill Out with Music
Music DUH!! I know music is an obvious choice. It is easy to turn on the FM or Satellite radio. For even more options check out Spotify, Pandora, or Apple Music App. These are all subscription based with some limited free options. Again, Youtube has some music videos if you want to listen to music too. Remember don’t watch the video though and just listen to the music. Some people have created playlists on Youtube for you so you don’t have to do the work. My favorite subscription is Spotify. There are so many songs, playlist, and no commercials for the premium plan.
6. WAZE it up in Traffic!
Unlike other map apps, Waze App has changed driving into a game. WAZE gives you directions but also encourages you to report hazards or other traffic issues. You can see your avatar on the road too. As you drive, you level up and your car can collect candy on the map. After you drive for a while, you can change your avatar and send your friends your driving route and ETA in order to let them know when you will arrive. However, the app only allows passengers to report traffic issues on the road so that drivers can focus on driving.
7. Your Best Friend is You!
Okay, this may sound boring but I challenge you to turn off all the audio sounds for once and listen to your own thoughts. Sometimes I like to think and sort out my thoughts. All the incoming noise can get annoying and the quiet can be a relief. The commute time alone and quiet to just think is the time that many do not get at home or work. Try staying in the moment and watch the scenery. Look at the trees, the sky, and just relax. Enjoy the wind with windows down and the warm sun. Look around at places on your route around your city and if the place looks cool you can come back and try a new restaurant or bar on an off day.
8. Chat with Friends and Fam
Many phones connect to the Bluetooth speakers in your car these days so may as well use them. If not, there are always headsets for your phone (Don’t get caught holding your phone and getting a ticket!). Call your best friend and chat the time away. Do you have a friend that you haven’t spoken to for weeks? Give them a call. I am sure your mom would appreciate the call anyway. Believe me, talking to your parents beats staring at the back of car lights. Just don’t let them figure out that you are using them to beat the boredom.
9. Dare I say to Text and Drive??
No! Don’t use your hands! Your smartphone has hands free so use it! Siri and Google Voice can send and read text hands-free! Practice at home and get the hang of the voice commands before heading into traffic. Also, if you want to write a little note, your smartphone can take notes for you and write them down. Just tell Siri or Google to write down the title of your new blog post or joke that you wrote.
11. Acapella Solo Act Singing
Why not turn off the music and just sing? If you want to just belt out a tune who cares? No one is around! You can sing or rap without music and just entertain yourself. This is so embarrassing, but sometimes I make up songs or poetry while I drive! It’s like singing in the shower! There is no one to judge your voice or make fun of you.
12. Get a Date without Swiping Right
Pay attention to the other drivers. Believe it or not, you can meet a date on the road. If someone is making eye contact, be open. Sometimes stopped at a light a person will ask you out and u can quickly give them your number. My friends tell me every now and then that they met a new guy at a stop light! It’s a really funny way to meet someone but it happens! It will be a funny story for your friends to hear how you met. Just be careful! Maybe don’t try this one at 65 miles per hour though!
13. Knock out your To-Do-List
If you have some appointments to make or other calls to take care of business, you can take care of them on the road. Did you forget to make a dentist appointment or claim something on your car insurance? Did you need to call the Pharmacy to ask a question? Driving can be a good option for this because you can get it done and do something else when you are not driving.
14. Write a book or keep a diary with no hands!
Many smartphones have a voice recording app. You can also buy a stand-alone voice recorder. That way if you get an idea for a book or blog, you can make a note of it. If you want to do something longer than a note, you can start keeping a voice diary or write a book. Each day just start your recorder and start talking. The apps can organize your voices notes or you can upload them to a computer later.
The trick here is to mix it up. Don’t make it feel like a rat race by going in circles doing the same thing over and over. Mix it up from the news to phone calls, and then to music. It really helps. If you get bored of one thing you can do another. So next time you are stuck with a 26 min morning commute, you will know what to do. Don’t just sit there or get so angry that you are cutting people off! Relax and try to have a little fun!
Do you have any traffic tips to beat the boredom? Let me know in the comments below.
Unfortunately, commuting in traffic is one thing no one warned us about before adulthood. Check out my other post if you can relate to the fact that we got no warning about what adulthood is really like: Adulting No One Warned Us!