Thursday, March 8, 2012


For a few glorious months, back in an earlier life, I was a professional driver. I drove an "Access" (paratransit) van around town, delivering the most precious of cargoes - people - to their destinations. I loved the job! The only reason I left it is because I was having trouble paying the bills on the wage I was earning.

Before I was turned loose with passengers, I got some training under the tutelage of a lifelong professional driver. "Ski" (he's Hawaiian, but of Polish descent) was (and is, I imagine) an awesome man; he'd driven trucks for the Army for a career - moving stuff like helicopters and M1 tanks. When he retired in Boise, he took up the paratransit driving.

I came to see driving in a whole different light.

He taught me to drive "gently." If you are transporting a passenger with a painful physical condition - like spina bifida, for example - you try to drive smoothly... no sudden movements. "Ski" (he's Hawaiian, but of Polish descent) even stressed avoiding that little "bump" when you come to a complete stop... by managing the slowdown to the very end, you can make your stop totally smoooooth.

He also taught me to look up the road as far as I could see - to be aware of which lane would be best for smooth uninterrupted travel. That's called "anticipation." If you're paying attention, you're rarely surprised. You can anticipate where stopping will be inevitable, and maybe see an alternate path to avoid stopping. You can anticipate when the light will turn green. You can choose the best time to change lanes. You can definitely avoid being in the turn-only lane, if you want to proceed straight.

Rolling along slowly is superior to having to stop and restart, if you want to be smooooth.

(That style of driving requires full attention - you can't drive that way while yappin' on your phone or texting or eating your lunch, for example.)

That knowledge carried over nicely to passenger-car driving. (Although I must admit it made me much more "judgmental" when observing the driving of other people. People who often weren't willing students, like I was for those 30 days or so.)

That knowledge also translated nicely to cycling. Rolling along smoothly is economical! It is far superior to stopping and starting. And looking way up the road is far superior to staring at that bumper right in front of you, and reacting only to it.

(I continue to maintain a Commercial Driver's License... probably rather ironic since I only drive about 20 or 30 times in a typical year.)

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