Live Life Fully: Besides Driving, what do we do in our cars?

By Linda Arnold
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's amazing to learn all the things we do in our cars -- besides drive. Talk about multitasking!As a culture it seems we're obsessed with doing more and more things at once. And sometimes the combinations are mind-boggling.With all the tools we have these days for staying informed and entertained, we might think this is a recent phenomenon. And, while we certainly have more variety, I was curious to learn that the first car radio was available in 1922.That was just the first step that led to eight-track and cassette tapes and, later, to CD players and satellite radios. Not only can we listen to music, but we can catch a ball game, have a book read to us or listen to live comedy, to name a few of the offerings.And it's not just the auditory senses that seem to be stimulated in our automobiles. Visual and kinesthetic experiences take their share of the spotlight, too. It's a wonder we keep our eyes on the road -- and our hands on the wheel -- long enough to get to our destinations.Check out the results of this survey from PARADE about collective habits in our cars. There were 5,685 respondents to the 10-question poll, with gender skewing slightly female. Topics included eating, phoning and the occasional romantic adventure. Take a look to get a glimpse of how you stack up.Do you engage in these activities while driving:Sing?Women, 87 percent; Men, 72 percent.Put on makeup or shave?Women, 29 percent; Men, 6 percent. (Apparently, most men put on their makeup at home!)Flirt with other drivers? Women, 20 percent; Men, 25 percent.Eat or drink?Women, 82 percent; Men, 75 percent. No surprise here!
Talk on the phone?Women, 28 percent; Men, 23 percent. I personally thought these percentages sounded low, although the new laws on the books with regard to cellphone usage in cars could be impacting this arena.Had a romantic encounter?
Women, 73 percent; Men, 81 percent. OK, you can draw your own conclusions here. Romantic encounters are, obviously, much more popular than simply flirting. See above.Gone to sleep?Women, 59 percent; Men, 81 percent. This may or may not be related to the previous question. The study did not go into correlations.
Talked your way out of a ticket?Women, 46 percent; Men, 55 percent. So much for the stereotypical scenarios!Made rude remarks to other drivers?Women, 42 percent; Men, 40 percent. Hmmmm <t40>...<t$>Asked for directions?Women, 96 percent; Men, 95 percent. So much for the macho myth that guys never ask.I always find these lifestyle surveys interesting. Sometime they hit the mark. And, at other times, I just shake my head.With daily work commutes, carpooling and errands, we spend a lot of time in our cars. So, it makes sense that we'd need to freshen up occasionally -- and keep ourselves alert and stimulated on those long stretches of interstate.When we put ourselves on "autopilot," though, we can lose focus. And it only takes a split second for an accident to happen. I, for one, know I need to be more cautious. Which brings to mind the importance of daily rituals. If we can pause for a few seconds when we make transitions throughout our day, we stand a better chance of switching gears, so to speak, from one activity to another. Not only can we be more efficient, but this can also translate to more peacefulness in our lives.For example, you might try taking a brief pause when you get into your car to focus your attention on the immediate task (rather than letting your mind race ahead). I have a sticky note on my dashboard that reminds me to drive slowly. And there's something to be said for transitioning from one activity to another -- like arriving home from work and taking a moment as you exit your car to get into the frame of mind for greeting your family.Studies have shown that if you keep your car organized you'll gain the benefit of feeling that your life is more in order. Not that we don't have those occasional items in the back seat that need to be taken to the cleaners, repair shop, etc. It's just when they continue to linger and pile up that they take their toll on us.When we think of our environment, we most likely think of our homes and offices. Just stop to think about how often your car is your environment, though. I've been known to pat my car and thank it for getting me around safely. That may sound a little weird, although I've known folks who give their cars names. An old friend of my sister's had a car named Ricky Rambler. Some of you out there may have similar stories.The point is that our cars serve us well, and we all have relationships with our cars -- to a greater or lesser degree. Judging from the survey results above, they're vehicles for many things other than driving. We just need to make sure we keep those things in perspective, especially while driving.And think about the quality of life issues. Can't we take a few extra minutes to shave before leaving the house -- or hold off on that romantic encounter till later? Just sayin.'Linda Arnold, M.A., MBA, is a certified wellness instructor, counselor and chairwoman/CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications firm with offices in West Virginia, Montana and Washington, D.C. Reader comments are welcome and may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301 or emailed to
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