When I was learning to drive - a friend told me - "Touch the car as you would touch a woman - You will never drive bad!!" Its a piece of advice that I have gingerly treasured. Indeed I have found that when you keep this in mind, your driving becomes a whole lot smoother.
Unfortunately I lost touch with driving after that - and for almost two years did not drive again. Eventually when I got my own car - I had lost the finesse I was once taught. Yet, slowly and surely as I got to know my machine better, the old lessons returned. I had a particularly pleasurable drive today - and I thought of sharing my lessons - hence this post.
First the basics. This has to be your own car, does not have to be a spanking shining BMW, it can be an old honda accord - doesn't make a difference, but the car has to be yours, in that if you damage the car, you should have to pay from your own pocket. I have found, with this monetary connection comes unswerving loyalty and love. Next you need to find a route that you would enjoy driving. This can be an interstate or a country road - through a desert or through hills. I personally prefer canyons and would strongly suggest country roads. The lesser the traffic, the lonelier the road - the better are your chances of a real connection with the surroundings and your car. Next find a playlist of your most favorite songs that will complement your mood for the evening. Those are the basics, after that you just need to find a good 3 hours of time to enjoy your drive.
Pre Drive:- At (t-30 mins) do take your car to a car wash and give it a thorough rinse. Please make sure your car is as clean as it can be. Then take your clean car to the starting point of your chosen route and park on the curb. Ensure that you have selected your opening song - turn the volume of your audio system to a minimum mute and start your car. Apart from the guidance with the steering wheel, driving quality is mostly determined by how well you can control the pressure on your accelerator and brakes - so pay close attention to this aspect. Ensure that your seat is at the right height and position. Once this is done, I prefer to rest my right leg on at least two spots. One with my knee against the mid column and another with my heel on the floor of the car. You should be able to hold your foot parallel, slightly touching the accelerator once you have found the heel spot. This may take a little experimentation because everyones height is different - but with a few lateral trials, you should be able to get your car to this setting.
Next comes control over your motor nerves. For you to be able to precisely control pressure, you need your nerves to respond to exacting instructions from your brain - this state is better accomplished if you are relatively stress free and relaxed before you drive. Some breathing techniques might help - but the idea is to be able to control the accelerator and the brake to extremely micro alterations. So do whatever it is you need to do to enable that.
Once you have gotten into your sweet spot and your heel is comfortable, it is time to tune your hearing, there is a reason why I asked the volume to be muted on the audio system. You have to caress your accelerator and learn to identify the engine sound of your car. This is a highly personal attribute, in that very few people other than yourself would be able to communicate with your car via sound. A car's engine sound is your car talking to you - if there is anything wrong - thats what your car is going to use to tell you - so learn to LISTEN to your car.
Ensure that you are in park mode and rev up the engine. You should be able to identify your car's normal heart rate and also its EHR. If you have the cranial room, do pay attention to the various pitches and corresponding RPMs of your car. This will enable you to judge a gear shift or a brake call without actually having to distract yourself from the surroundings. After sufficient practice, this usually gets embedded in your muscle memory and you will be making changes without ever having to think about it. If you are really a perfectionist - test yourself by closing your eyes, listening to the engine and guessing the RPM. I haven't done this - but I know when my car is hitting red without looking.
When this exercise is done correctly, it establishes a supreme communication medium with your car. You can take pride in knowing that when it comes to your car - no one knows it better than you.
When a car is used by one person consistently, it adapts to that person's driving habits. No - this is no technology feature, it is basic mechanics. A person's wheel pressure, lock assurance check force, door checks, mirror and seat handling and in general driving style determine how every moving part of the car will wear and tear - this wear and tear is different for every car and every handler. It determines the health of your car over a long term and it also determines what mileage you can get off a full tank. So, it pays to treat your car well.
Ok, by now you have got to be aching to go. Open your eyes, adjust the windows, the sun roof, check your mirrors and ease the car onto the road.
There is a misconception that I want to address here. Many people think a guy's machismo is determined by how fast he can drive - this is utter bullshit. If you are a believer of this - you are on the wrong page and what I am saying here can not be comprehended by you. I define machismo by how precisely you can control your car - and how quickly can you understand subtle hints. So when you start on your road, do take due notice of the speed limit. A speed limit is no random number, if a road shows a certain speed limit - please be assured there is sound logic and science behind that number. Although you may not be aware of this - A group of engineers had to go through road drawings - determine the curvature of the road, the angle of elevation and determine a critical centrifugal velocity at which your car would be thrown tangential. Those engineers have been kind enough to include a safety buffer and that is how the number on the speed board is arrived at. Not paying attention to this fine piece of engineering is not only physically dangerous and mentally retarded, it is also an insult of pure aesthetics.
Having said that driving below or at the speed limit just because the board says so is equally lame. You need to practice a route to understand how fast you can take a curve - in addition to which you need to account for local law enforcement tolerance and arrive at your own comfort margin. I usually drive 5 miles above the speed limit. It is within engineering safety margins and also within cop endurance levels - in addition if pulled over you can always explain it away as human error. I hate when my deliberate, artistically cognitive derived speed has to labeled 'Human Error' - but trust me it works!!
Alright - so at this point, your car is clean, your tank is full, you are in the right frame of mind - your girl friend is back home - the windows and roof are in sync with the wind - and you are driving at a beautiful speed and you are on your favorite route. But wait - things are about to get better!!
Do take a moment to listen to your engine - if you find five minutes of consistent pattern, you can safely place this sound in the background - please bear in mind that you have to factor in the wind noise ( I am assuming you are driving on a lonely road ) - with that - you can switch on the song and bring up the volume. Again - the volume of a song is direct function of its genre, intent, lyrics and equalizer settings - do not be the stupid brawn that just blears out music. Learn to enjoy the notes - someone spent a lifetime perfecting voice and instrument for you to listen to what you are listening.
All that and more ... when done correctly, driving can be a most sensuous expression of independence and can become a rewarding celebration of ones success.
Zoom Zoom .....
(Quote credit: Sachin Deokar. cc Creative common license - Sanket Korgaonkar 2009 - All rights reserved)