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Poor Weather Makes Driving Better

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On: Thu, Oct 17, 2013 at 10:14AM | By: Nick Bakewell


Poor Weather Makes Driving Better

Here's the story of how rain, miserable, leaden sheets of grey, doleful rain managed to make a boring journey into one of the most exciting I've ever taken. Rain really did improve my commute.

Alright, strictly speaking, it wasn't my morning commute; I work from home. But my girlfriend's car has started acting like a very nervous little filly at highway speeds, so being the upstanding sort of fella I am, I gave her a lift. Normally this would be entirely unremarkable, just a 15-mile jaunt against traffic up to her office, then forever and a day to get back, going with the flow. This morning, however, it was PELTING. I'm talking biblical floods, as if the greater DFW area had been judged to be the nexus of all sin and God was literally pouring on the retribution. So it was that most of Dallas's nine-to-five workforce found itself in a massive traffic jam in an even bigger rainstorm, several planks short of an ark.

Now, as a rule, you will never hear someone say, "You know, people where I live are actually really good, courteous drivers who clearly respect both the letter of the law and each other." That said, compared to places like Boston, or Portugal, or Asia, Dallas drivers aren't bad. In my opinion, it's probably due to the city's relative wealth; the bottom line of "average car" here tends to be the most recent iteration of the BMW 3-Series, rather than, say, a 1998 Corolla. Or maybe a C-Class Mercedes. But, and this is a big, J-Lo type "but", one thing that this city's population can't deal with is bad weather and driving. The communal speed limit on the city's jugular vein, I-75, drops from 70ish to 20mph, like the entire eight-lane highway system suddenly becomes a school zone at 3:30 on a Friday afternoon. The effect this has on the sane motorist is to transform what is normally a very boring drive into a rolling obstacle course.

Because, more than the weather, it's the other drivers you have to contend with; you're forced to perform a delicate balancing act, slipping balletically betwixt giant Ford F150s, Lexus SUVs being driven by people who have more coffee than hands, and the occasional speed demon who doesn't realize that his front-wheel-drive Acura is as limp-wristed as a tea-soaked doily. This, while being pelted with spray and hurled about by sudden gusts of wind as your tires scrabble for grip on the rain-slicked, rutted, ravaged surface of the highway. At this point, if you're paying attention, your blood is fizzing like prosecco and your knuckles are white on the wheel. With each passing second, you find yourself feeling more and more like a racing driver, sinking into your intuition as you come to expect that huge SUV to come lunging up out of your blind spot while your right foot crushes the brake pedal in panic as someone else makes a mad dash across four lanes in 100 feet to make an exit that they didn't see until it was too late, so thick is the cloying greyness of wind and cloud and water. You begin to be aware that even though you're driving well below the legal speed limit, you yourself are driving at your limit. And it's when that clicks that you realize: what had seemed terrifying, what had felt like walking on a rope strung across the wide-stretched jaws of certain doom is actually... fun. It's a challenge, it's the most bland, boring, unpleasant, and monotonous part of your day turned on its head and throwing down a gauntlet to you. You look around; everyone is driving at 20mph, faces mashed between the wheel and the windscreen, eyes wide with terror, so risk-averse that they're endangering themselves and everyone around them. But not you; because you have the guts, the charisma, the boldness and grace to negotiate this vehicular maelstrom... at 30mph.




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