Category Archives: Detours: Psychology of Driving

A look at some psychological aspects of driving, as well as considering how procrastination themes can be related to driving. With increasing traffic, more vehicles, and spending more time on road, may as well make use of time behind and around the wheel to find some stories.

Psychology of Gas Prices: When a steal of a deal still leaves you feeling empty…

Gas prices went up. Of course the pending hurricane may have a factor. And the refinery issues. And matters related to supply and demand. But, of course there are other theories. Expressions like “Price gouging” often come up. And then there are many conspiracy theories.

Do you mind if I try my hand at a conspiracy theory? Well, maybe nothing so sophisticated, but at least fly some kites about some wild brainstorms? Like most ponderings that we stretch far, there may not be much accuracy to what I muse, but I’m going to go ahead anyway.

We were warned last night on the news that gas prices would take a significant jump today. People were advised to go fill up their pumps prior to sunrise today, and footage of lineups building at gas stations were evident all over. I was one of those people who filled up last night. The psychology of it all, the resulting feelings I had from filling my tank at a deliberately chosen time, surprised me both last night and well into today.

I was giddy. Yes, that may be the appropriate word to describe my state. Yes, despite, these troubling economic times, I was giddy and rather satisfied with myself for being up with the news and acting upon the information. This morning, while driving to work, and hearing how gas prices were steadily rising, and watching cars line up at stations, I was elated I wasn’t one of them. Indeed, I thought, I got a great deal! What a bargain! Instead of paying close to 1.40/L, I paid 1.23/L just last night.

I’m ashamed. 1.23 is not anywhere near cheap, affordable, nor reasonable, but here I was celebrating that fact. May the ‘powers-to-be/powers-that-are’ take note of this sentiment and use this kind of psychology to manipulate and even ‘gouge’? May marketing and advertising take advantage of this consumer weakness and strategically fluctuate pricing to make us think we’re getting a steal when they are actually stealing from us?

Of course, now I notice my foolishness and I am not giddy, not ecstatic, not thinking that I was one of the lucky ones. But, admittedly, just momentarily, I did feel satisfied with my purchase. So if those forces up high can get many consumers, at one time or another, to just even fleetingly feel a short moment of impulsive satisfaction at believing a high price is actually a bargain, to celebrate even just briefly because they see others being ripped off more, then those forces up there must be mighty rich.

Again, this is more or less a conspiracy theory, so really there is not much actual truth to the reasons suggested for the price increases. But, perhaps it can also be worthwhile as a piece of self-reflection, self-criticism, at myself.

I filled up my tank opportunistically last night, but this morning, today, I still feel like I’m running on empty.

-Patrick Law


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Filed under Detours: Psychology of Driving, News

Switching Gears by Using Paper to Cover Fire

I am scared. I like quiet. I’m easily bothered by noise. I spend much of my days in libraries. I get startled and jump out of my seat quite easily. So, because of all these points and characteristics, I think I’ve generated enough reasons to support why I’m a slow driver. What in the world is the link?

I drive a standard. Most of the people I know say I am a waste of a standard and do it disgrace. They say it’s painful to sit in the passenger side of my car while watching me drive as if I’m on eggshells. In a nutshell, I drive slow, or more accurately, I am slow to accelerate and reach peak speed. The exact reason for this is because I shift too quickly. People are right, I do.

And here is when the connection to noise and disturbances come back full circle. When trying to hold down the gas longer before shifting gears, the car gets noisy as you rev. I often find it noisy even at 3000 rpms and shift at or just under this number. The passengers shake their heads in disgust. And I guess if there are cars behind me stopped at a traffic light, they shake their fists (and the odd finger) in disgust when the light turns green because it’s obvious that I lose speed and momentum when shifting. I am sorry.

Whenever the rpms go up, and I hear that noise, am I intuitively thinking I’m doing damage to the car? Or, am I suddenly thrust into the role of a sadist when I’m obviously more stable and at home at the other end, according to every single psychological test that I have ever done. Of course other drivers are not going to have the patience to allow me to get out of my car and explain this at the next set of lights. So, another solution is needed.

How can I resist my natural tendency to shift gears in search of quiet and to avoid the noise of high rpms? Well, this past week, I test drove an idea with music. I increased the volume of my tunes and purposely selected music that was not gentle. In this way, the music slightly covered up, softened, or insulated a bit of the sound from the engine. And I also decided to not look at my rpm gauge, since I tend to automatically switch when the dial hits 3.

Admittedly, it worked. I felt something, a little bit, just a small bit of that adrenalin that they always advertise to full throttle in those car commercials. I have never taken Viagra, but is this what they mean when they say what they mean…you know what I mean?

Anyways, just like what they mean, you can’t keep it up forever, especially if it’s just not in your personality. Soon after, I was getting bothered by the loud music and trying to think of ways to cover up and drown out that noise. Eventually, quite naturally, I didn’t have to look hard to hear another sound that clearly smothered everything else to minimalistic background. My beating heart!

These days, beside my insurance, license, and registration info, I keep copies containing results of my psychological tests and medical records. In case other drivers, passengers, or even police, are curious why I switch gears so early.

-Patrick Law


Filed under Detours: Psychology of Driving

Sorry, I’m Late. Traffic Congestion. Where? (Points and clicks at temple)

Oh my God! Late for work! What time is it? It’s just late! Simply late! What to do? Oh please, please, please run into a traffic jam. Yes! Yes! I am stuck in traffic! Never mind the fact that I woke up before the alarm, as usual, and stayed in bed thinking after stopping the alarm. And then some. Never mind that. Because now, it’s all irrelevant because I have a new cause outside my control. Traffic!

Wait, this may not cut it anymore. Maybe 5-10 years ago? But, not today. Not in today’s Calgary. Booming, growing, exploding city. I’m going to have to do better than that to satisfy my boss. Being stuck in normal rush hour traffic is not an acceptable excuse in the Calgary of today. Those at work will just tell me to leave earlier, wake up earlier. (Little do they know that I wake up real early but just have so much to do, so much to think about, so much to attempt to squeeze in before work erases my fantasies; don’t get me wrong, work is pretty good and not a tyrant, but it just happens to fall immeasurably short of my dreams)

Come on, now! Think creatively! I need an out. Why is it so backed up? Come on! Yes…turn on the radio! Oh yes! Oh, please, please, please God, let there be some kind of accident. Shoot, sorry, I apologize. That didn’t come out too kindly. I don’t mean to wish there be a major accident for my selfish purposes. Just…just..just..well…do you know those situations when traffic is backed up and you stretch and elongate your neck to try to see far into the distance expecting some kind of incident?

Okay, how about this? Oh God, oh please, please, please God, I wish there to be a stalled vehicle blocking the turning lane, causing an insurmountable delay. So, I listen intently on the radio with unwavering focus trying to find evidence for my late arrival to work. Nothing yet. Nothing still. Still nothing! What! I need something to be reported on my route that everyone at work is familiar with. Please! Please?

If coworkers hear about an accident or a stall on my route on their radio at work, then they’ll collectively nod in agreement and understanding as to why my chair remains empty. The irony is obviously not lost on me about how I’m ridiculously praying for an accident to save my life. What would God think about this? Again, as if to alleviate some of the guilt within me, I emphasize that by accident, I mean stall, or flat tire, or a truck losing its load – no bodily injuries!

I know what God thinks. He’s not impressed because I’m not getting any answer. None. Sometimes God speaks through the voices of others. Nope, none. God’s not on the radio. The traffic reporter listed a lengthy Christmas list of stalls, flat tires, non-functioning traffic lights, but nothing on my side of the city. Damn!

I don’t need no official statistical census to tell me that Calgary is growing. Many years ago, a traffic jam like this would surely mean some accident or out of the ordinary incident somewhere, and it would be reported on the radio. These days, however, this kind of traffic is simply just volume – not worth a second of airtime.

My coworkers are not going to be impressed. What should I do, what should I do? I have a thought. Yes. I drive a standard. I am not coordinated. Whoops, I let go of the clutch too soon, and I stall. Yes. And then I shall put my hazard lights on and check under my hood acting all confused? No. No, I don’t. I will just continue to drive to work inch by inch.

I’m no sociopath; I’m just a blogger with fantasies…

-Patrick Law


Filed under Detours: Psychology of Driving, Working

A Million Dollars For What? (Reactions to Hyundai Sonata Commercial)

Have you ever seen the recent Hyundai Sonata commercials? The specific one that caught my eye, or caught my despise, was where the older, distinguished, rich man, tried to offer the owner of Sonata a million dollars just to drive it for one night. (I couldn’t find the clip on YouTube, or anywhere else, so if anyone can point me to a source, please let me know).

My initial reaction was one of disgust as the words “Get Real!” came launching out of my mouth. I realize that maybe I should be the one ‘getting real’ if I’m trying to take commercials too seriously and actually believe that ads should be realistic. Still, I think this Sonata commercial goes beyond even nonsense.

In the clip, the owner thinks about the million dollar offer very briefly and replies with an emphatic ‘No!’  I have a few issues which turns my crank. First off, why would the rich man (with an air of snobbishness) even make such an offer if he could buy his own Sonata (many Sonatas) and drive it every night of his life, if he so chooses? And why would the Sonata owner refuse when he could have taken the money and bought a brand new Sonata (many Sonatas), if he so chooses? Why couldn’t this blind luck of an offer have come my way from a rich neighbour?

The rich man’s intentions? I don’t like the vibe that this ad is giving off. It’s as if the man is flaunting his wealth and purposely tempting someone with his power. He can buy any car he wants, but purposely tries to take away a vehicle that has personal meaning and memories to the owner. Maybe the rich man is testing a theory or hypothesis to see how many of us would throw away something we’ve grown attached to, even for just one night, for cold, hard cash. Maybe he is not offering a million dollars for the car, but actually for your soul, heart, and consciousness?

The Sonata owner’s intentions? In having him refuse the offer, the commercial is obviously promoting (or exaggerating) how valuable the Sonata is,  how you will grow so attached with it, that you could not even afford to lose it for even one night, regardless of the cost or benefits.

My intentions? I don’t know. I maybe should be happy that the Sonata owner resisted and sent a message to the rich man that money isn’t everything. But how many of us in real life would be tested with a question of loyalty to our cars that even comes to the absurd situation presented in this commercial? Though I was upset at the commercial, maybe the ad had the desired effect on me because I’m still thinking about it. Or maybe I am more upset at the rich man than the car or the message. Either way, the commercial perhaps does a good job in raising discussion about various social status and value issues, but it sure doesn’t make me want to buy a Sonata.

-Patrick Law



Filed under Detours: Psychology of Driving

Internalizing the Road-Rage Experience

I suffered from road-rage for the first time this morning since trying to parallel park during my driver’s training exam. I was heading east approaching an intersection with a red light that requires stopping if one were going straight or waiting to turn left. It also had an optional lane to turn right, but with a yield sign. That’s the direction I was going. However, most people end up stopping at the yield sign because there is so much north to south traffic during peak hours, and that direction usually has a green light through the intersection. I was no different and stopped at the yield, while the car behind me must have wanted to smell my behind. Either that, or push me onto oncoming traffic using me as a lead blocker while he drives to daylight. Yes, he was that uncomfortably close to my tail.

Do you notice that when you are approaching a yield while looking at a red light, your automatic first tendency is to stop, and then while focusing on the traffic far into the distance you are not even aware that the closer oncoming traffic has started to slow down because the north-south lights have turned yellow? That was my mistake. I was a half-second slow in anticipating that our light was about to turn green, which meant not having to stop at the yield, and this really antagonized the car behind me, as evident by his 5 second prolonged honk.

Once I got out of his way, he flew by me while making the requisite body and fingering gesticulations that you would expect. Once in front of my car, he started signaling both left and right enough times for a disco and, just to leave no doubts, started zig zagging his vehicle side to side, in and out of both lanes as if on a dance floor. Or maybe he was mimicking a boxer hopping around in all directions getting ready for a fight.

Of course all his time spent on his moves and not going in a straight line meant I would end up catching up to him at the next set of red lights and stopped right beside him. This gave him an even more direct, almost face-to-face, opportunity to vent, go red, and even open his door halfway with one leg sticking out. Was it a bluff? Should I have called the potential bluff? I just couldn’t make a decision and procrastinated in anguish. I couldn’t act. In this case the traffic lights forced me to act. They turned green, I turned into the road leading to my work parking lot, while the disco dancer/driver/boxer desperately tried to get himself back into his car as the vehicles behind him went into a chorus of honking.

I apologize for my road-rage displayed this morning and am writing this blog to provide evidence in case I have to turn myself in.

-Patrick Law


Filed under Detours: Psychology of Driving

Creative Anti-Theft Devices for Vehicles

Strolling across a large parking lot, we can see vehicles of all shapes and sizes. We can probably also make out a variety of anti-theft devices as well. For the higher-end cars, they obviously stand out, and the security systems are probably top notch. We can see why they want to spend just a little bit extra to protect what they already spent a lot for.

Then there are the middle level of vehicles that often come equipped with some kind of basic security feature, perhaps an alarm, or perhaps keyless entry, or perhaps the driver bought something to hook around the steering wheel.

What about the rest of us? The next level, or the lower level, of vehicles which do not obviously draw much attention in parking lots, except for its lack of features and overall ugliness. I would argue that it is also important to consider anti-theft devices for this group, especially this group, because with less disposable income, they probably could least afford to lose what they have. They may also have to use their vehicles as make-shift storage because of lack of space elsewhere.

For this group, obviously pricey anti-theft devices are out of the question. I have experimented with a few economical means of making my vehicle a deterrent towards theft. I carry a lot of coupons, so it’s important to keep these out of view. If you have too many, then at least hide the conspicous ones that have the word “FREE” on them. No matter how undesirable the vehicle itself is, “FREE” will draw the attention of anyone.

Another method I use is to put scotch tape on chips and ‘spider’ cracks on my windshield, instead of fixing each chip or replacing the entire windshield.  Sometimes by putting my frugality and resourcefulness right up front, it shows to others that I’m just trying my best to keep it together, and it may even stir some reflective emotions among passersby.  It’s definitely a ‘band-aid’ solution, but it’s less costly than surgery.

And if we must carry a lot of materials in the vehicle, and it can’t be fit in the trunk, I try to use partly torn cardboard boxes, garbage bags, and even old cereal boxes. If someone does want to take a look, and pry in, go ahead; however, with the time a thief will have to take to get through all the mess to find my gold, rookie hockey card, and NFL football, the cops would have arrived or the thief may be too fatigued to run.

Happy driving and peace of mind parking!

-Patrick Law




Filed under Detours: Psychology of Driving