Wednesday, 21 May 2008

50 mph

Driving home yesterday morning, with the rising cost of petrol in the back of mind, I consciously did something extravagant. Not extravagant with money but extravagant with time. I slowed down. Instead of a one hour journey at full pelt of anything from 70 to 90 mph (where I can) it took about twenty minutes extra.

It seemed so slow driving at 50 mile per hour. Very strange. Like being in a parallel universe ambling along as the cars and trucks sped by leaving me to ponder life and the universe. Wondering whether it was actually safer for me to be driving at this speed as it felt so sedentary. Like I could almost fall asleep! It was also embarrassing. I am one of those people who get fed-up being stuck behind a slower moving vehicle pondering if they really had to travel that slowly and wanting them to get moving. I really felt for the cars stuck behind me trying to find a space to over-take, so I try to be considerate and keep right over.

Driving at 50 mph meant that I could identify the road kill as I went by rather than just seeing a furry mass and going all sympathetic. As I drove along, I wonder if I actually felt a little spring inside me unwinding. The stress being released as my knuckles didn't have to grip the wheel so tightly, and I could sit back in the seat not feeling as if I had to process quite so much safety information as when one drives at 80mph.

It is almost a metaphor for my life. Balancing out the speed. Bringing it into a more even keel so that there are not weeks of high speed followed by weeks of exhaustion. Indeed, taking things at a better pace all round might just get me places a whole lot faster. Maybe not quite at a tortoise's pace but there is something to be said for the parable of the tortoise and the hare.

Tomorrow I have a long journey again and I will build in more than extra time to get there. And on Friday I have the journey back again. It will be interesting to see if I manage to maintain that more gentler pace and what the effect will be on my state of mind. In the short term, it will fascinating to see if that fuel dial really does move slower at 50 mph.

Fuel Prices:
Sunday just gone, my local station charged 109.9p per litre of unleaded. Unsurprisingly it was a very busy station. Further down the road and nearer my destination it is around 113.9p per litre. That is about $2.24 (US) per litre. I think the US are only just set to break the $1 per litre barrier. I wonder what they would make of what we pay?


alan said...

First, let me say I owe you the world's biggest longest deepest hug! You are absolutely the best!

I noticed years ago when fishing out local county lake (a 10 horse limit at the time) with the 14' boat and the 1951 Sea King 5 horse motor my Dad bought new that full throttle seemed slow compared to what that boat would do with the Sea King 12 horse I was used to on it.

6 or 7 hours later, full of fresh air and "unwound" with all my troubles miraculously evaporated, that was a "normal" speed and the 35 mph city street that brought me home seemed like a racetrack!

Perspective being one of the keys to surviving this life, I'm not sure if speed also carries its perspective, or it's just perception; after all, I'm just an illiterate autoworker and there are far brighter minds than mine who visit here regularly.

As far as "petrol" goes, I remember my Dad filling his '55 Ford Fairlane with "premium" for 19.9c a gallon in 1959 or '60, and at the time "regular" was 15.9cents a gallon. I remember in 1972 him filling his '71 Ford pickup with 52 gallons of regular for $10 and change during the last "gas war" before I went in the Navy and the OPEC oil embargo.

Yesterday I put 10 gallons in my truck it was $37 and some change @$3.73/gallon and they say it will be $4 nationwide by June 1st.

I wouldn't mind if the oil companies weren't making record profits. They keep saying it's not their fault, it's the price per barrel, but then (being a dumb autoworker) I can't see if it's costing you more to buy your raw materials how you can be making more profit than you did when you paid less if you aren't gouging somewhere along the way.

If that "windfall" as they used to call it was being used to replace the crumbling bridges; to fund mass transit; to carbon offset some of the greenhouse gas that paid for it, then I wouldn't be that upset even by paying what you do.

As long as it's lining someone's pockets while they're laughing all the way to the bank, then no, I'm not happy about them!


Jay said...

We all rush about everywhere, don't we? And yet you are so right when you say that taking things at a slower pace is so much more relaxing. I hate driving so much that I tend to want to get there as soon as possible so I can stop doing it. But I've noticed that if I just give in and drive slower, there is so much less stress that I wonder if it's worth the extra journey time just for that.

Daniel Cox over at Notions From the Left of Far Right has some interesting thoughts on what he calls 'Hypermiling'.

Anji said...

I try not to drive too fast, having an older car helps! The fishermen are blocking the port here where the petrol comes in so a lot of us could be walking soon. Oh yes, the buses are on strike this afternoon. I'm so glad I work at home most of the time. Have a safe and stressless trip.

€1.40 a litre here

Josephine said...

It's a great metaphor for life. I've tried it once or twice, and the amazing thing was when I got where I was going I was just so much less exhausted!

As for the fuel is beginning to scare me, actually. I have this really stupid car with a 3 1/2 litre engine. Not only does it drink petrol, it's resale value is dropping every day as the price of fuel rises. I am seriously thinking of trying to get an LPG car...but there seems to be no second hand market in them - guess people are holding on to them.

And the heating/water in the flat is oil! I have just turned it all off permanently and use the water only when I need it.

Doris said...

I guess the hug is in regard to our mutual friend? Thank you and back at you. :-)

That little fishin' trip sounds special .. reminds me of a canal boat holiday I did many years ago. After 10 days on the quiet waterways of England I returned to London and my life and a I emerged up from Westminster Underground Station I was completely unprepared for the speed of the people on the pavement let alone the traffic.

Alan, on perspectives and perceptions you are as good a philosopher as anyone around here ;-)

Now that I am back I shall check out this 'Hypermiling'.

That costs about the same as us. Thanks, it was a lovely trip and I have since posted a pic.

I'm waiting to see if I feel less exhausted on the whole ... but already it feels good. I didn't realise you have more than a fuel hungry vehicle to worry about ... luckily it is warmer weather and you can get away with not having the heating on. Imagine if this was winter?!