Practicing social distancing in my car
Friday, April 17, 2020
Like many of you, I’m in my fifth week of working from home, and the fourth week into the stay-at-home order directive in my state. As the coronavirus evolves, we can expect more restrictions on our movements and social behavior to protect humanity from the insidious spread of the virus throughout the country.
For the very lucky ones like me who have so far been only mildly inconvenienced by the stay-at-home order, keeping busy has been challenging. Beyond my work hours, domestic projects are getting checked off the list quickly. Not that there isn’t plenty to do in and around the house — it’s the lack of materials and supplies that keeps me from starting or completing many tasks.
I have consequently spent my discretionary hours in the garage. We purchased a new home a little over a year ago, and I’ve now completed the garage makeover. It was never intended to be a parking palace, but I’ve added a premium floor, paneled accent walls, enhanced lighting and a workbench with storage. All the things I need – and really nothing that I don’t.
Regrettably, I don’t presently own a project car to occupy my time. This was part of our overall plan to simplify as we approach retirement. We have two vehicles still under warrantee that reside in their designated bays, and an errand-runner in the driveway that I admit to cleaning annually whether it needs it or not. There are no plans of enhancing any one of them.
Most of our social calendar for the past 10 years has centered on car related events and activities. I’m a long-time member of the Porsche Club of America, and our otherwise active region has virtually nothing on the calendar through May. And the summer is not likely to look much better. This is entirely reasonable and appropriate — but rather depressing nonetheless.
In order to keep my distance from others, the safest activity I can think of to promote good mental health and relieve the daily tedium in this new environment is to simply go for a ride. Driving has always been a release for me and satisfies an inherent need to get out of the house and focus on an exceptionally pleasurable task, leaving everything in the rearview mirror.
My wife and I have always enjoyed an excursion with no destination in mind. We find it therapeutic — spending 24 hours a day in and around the house can get pretty tiresome. Now more than ever, going for a drive eases the stress of spending so much time in one place — the destination never being as important as the journey itself.
We started dating in our teens, and driving was often the only way to be alone together. As long as we had enough money for gas, getting away from our respective families and friends was never more than jumping into the car and pointing it down the road. And the driving routes we use today often originate from that period of discovery.
I challenged myself to comply with the directive in the midst of this uncertain social climate, although it’s not easy to decipher the guidance coming from the many sources. In my state, the regulation leaves a lot to interpretation, and I don’t want to simply convince myself that my understanding is in keeping with the order, so I’ve done my homework.
Where we live, there are certain acceptable activities during the stay at home order including food shopping and visits to any medical facility or pharmacy. It also permits travel to and from these aforementioned areas, as well as to such locations that have hiking or walking trails where we can exercise and maintain good health — so long as we practice safe social distancing.
And it doesn’t really matter which car we take. Our current rule of thumb is a complex formula that takes into account our mood, potential destinations, the current weather and the amount of gas in the tank. Oddly, the car with the least fuel is more likely to be chosen, as an allowable destination is the gas station.
Though driving without a specific target in mind is arguably safer than ending up someplace where there is potential of contact with others, we feel better making sure we end up at any one of them. It’s just that the route we choose in getting there may not be the most direct.
For me there are few things as satisfyingly curative as a pleasant drive regardless of the vehicle selection, weather or time of day. If you want a release from the current environment — something to break up the monotony of your day, I suggest you first verify the stay-at-home laws in your state. And if there is nothing preventing you in doing so, get in the car and take a drive.
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