I grew up in Seattle, Washington. This beautiful city was never expected to grow the way it did, and traffic is horrendous. When I lived there, I usually could manage to get off the freeways in key spots and find other ways home. Eventually I learned to do the same in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live now.
I drive all over the South Bay Peninsula for my work, and I am not usually stressed by traffic. This has been an acquired skill. Let me help you reduce your traffic aggravation.
Know the traffic patterns.
Knowledge is power, especially in crowded metropolitan areas. You can leave at the right time and have a 20 minute trip or wait just a little and make it 45. Humans resist transitions. I know I can easily postpone leaving when I’m absorbed in a project. Then I will pay! The trick to feeling good about getting out the door is the next tip:
Leave before the rush and bring something to do.
I have my laptop charged up and ready, or some other paperwork to do. If there’s a book I’ve been salivating to get into, this is the time to bring it. I don’t mind hanging around for an hour at my destination with something useful to do . The alternative is sitting in traffic scowling at the car in front of me.
Explore alternative routes
The trick to this is to do it when you’re not in a time crunch. On a day when you you have plenty of time before traffic gets bad, see where that other main thoroughfare takes you. Explore on and off ramps you may need to take and notice which ones have hidden hazards, like a four way stop before you get on the freeway. In my area, certain ramps are to be avoided at all costs, and I have found ways around most of the predictable traffic.
This is a user-based application that allows drivers to collectively outsmart traffic by reporting on conditions to other users. It also has a built in GPS that will direct you to other ways to get where you’re going in half the time. I have used side streets I never would have tried, and saved time and stress.
Plug in audio books to use the time
Sometimes, all your efforts turn up fruitless and you are stuck in traffic. For me, the most annoying aspect of this is the big time waste. I get around it by catching up on my reading, except that I’m listening. You can buy audio books, or you can record them yourself on your smartphone. I have done this with books I’m studying. Reading them out loud helps me absorb the material, and then hearing it again anchors it even more. This is a great strategy for students.
I am in a vocal quartet, and our bass is a technological wizard. He records our individual voice parts of songs we are trying to learn on MP3’s, and I listen to them in traffic. I go to rehearsal and I know my part! That’s effective multi-tasking.
I love living in the Bay Area. Nasty traffic is the price I pay for great weather, culture, outstanding food, and top rated education for my kids. With a little planning, it’s a small price to pay.
More from Elizabeth Danu:
Work at Home Successfully and Still Be a Good Mom
Get Your Husband to Do His Share of the Housework
What to Do for Your Child’s Growing Pains