Bumper-to-bumper traffic is mind-numbingly boring. The kind of boring that makes you rethink your life choices as you wonder how you ended up in that mess in the first place. Worse, you feel helpless amidst all the chaos. It’s slightly more bearable when you have passengers on board, but inevitably you will spend some time alone behind the wheel.
While it’s tempting to pull out your smartphone and surf Facebook or text your friends while you’re stuck, it’s not a safe practice to use your phone while driving. But don’t fret. Here are a few hands-free ways you can pass the time in traffic while keeping your eyes firmly on the road.
* Think, think, think. You can’t move much when you’re stuck in a traffic jam, but you can use the time to exercise your thoughts. It’s a chance to think about things that you might not always prioritize: lessons you’ve learned from the past, your tasks and goals for the present, and the things that you hope to achieve in the future. If you’re the academic kind, you can think about some new ideas or ponder about current affairs and politics. If you want to keep it simple, make a mental list of all the things that you’re grateful for.
If you’re stumped on topics to think about, ask someone at home or a friend at work for a few suggestions to mull over during your drive. Their input might just give your thinking time a much-needed new perspective.
* Read with your ears. Traffic jams aren’t always a waste of time if you prep for them. Podcasts and audiobooks are great ways to learn new things and keep your mind stimulated while driving. The added attentiveness will also help keep you alert throughout your journey. Before you brave the streets, download a podcast or an audio book on a topic that you find interesting. Plug it into the multimedia system before you set off, then listen and learn as you sit in gridlock. If you want an extra challenge, you can even learn a new language via an instructional audio book. Go ahead and practice out loud--it won’t sound as weird when there’s no one else in the car.
* Number plate games. For a bit of fun during rush hour, try the different number plate games. For example, see how long it takes for you to form the alphabet in order using the letters you see on different number plates. Or you can create acronyms from the different combinations of letters. They might seem a bit childish, but these games are good for a chuckle or two if you give them a chance. They’re also a good way to work on your situational awareness while you’re behind the wheel. Just don’t get too carried away with the plate-hunting and stay focused on your driving, especially when the traffic starts moving.
* Memorize a really fast and difficult song. Admit it, you partake in some in-car karaoke every now and then. It’s okay. Pretty much everyone is guilty of belting out their favorite hits while they’re behind the wheel. It’s an exhilarating feeling when you can nail every line of a song. This challenge, though, will test both your memory and your lyrical skills.
It’s one thing to know all the lyrics to classics like 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' but can you sing every line of 'One Week' by Barenaked Ladies without missing a beat? Or can you rap and flow to Eminem’s fastest hits? Memorizing an unfamiliar and difficult song provides a different challenge that will have you pressing the repeat button again and again as you try and get it right. Just try to avoid getting funny looks from your fellow drivers while you have your solo dress rehearsal.
* Breathe and stretch. Sit in traffic for too long and your back will start to feel stiff. If you drive a manual, your left knee might strain from all the stop-start movement. To stay sane in a traffic jam, you need to keep your blood flowing. If you’re at a stoplight, pull up your handbrake and do a few stretches for your shoulders, neck, back, and so on. While you’re at it, you can also do some breathing exercises. They might not seem like much, but doing these will get blood and oxygen flowing to the right places to keep you relaxed and refreshed. Plus, you won’t feel as groggy when you finally reach your destination.
You can try these activities out by yourself or even when you have passengers along for the ride. Regardless what you do in traffic though, make sure to stay hydrated and always keep your eyes on the road.
What are your favorite ways to pass the time in traffic?