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Listener Commentary: Taking it Slow

By Gary Schindler

Springville, NY – Many of us are in a hurry to get where we're going. It's not uncommon to see some people on the Thruway traveling at 75 to 80 miles per hour. But Listener-Commentator Gary Schindler won't be among them.

Listener-Commentator Gary Schindler is trying to save gas in Springville, where he is vicar of St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

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First of all, I'd like to begin by apologizing. I'm the one on the I-90 near the merge with the 400 who is actually going the speed limit. I may be annoying, but I am saving the extra gas you are burning by exceeding the posted speed limit.

The price of gasoline has been a hot topic lately. Mention gas prices, and almost everyone I know gets annoyed. 50 bucks, 70 bucks and more for a fillup? Highway robbery.

I thought about this, and posed the question, Who is the thief? I have checked on the fossil fuel filcher and the thief is us. At least in part.

Oh, for sure there are people making scads of money on the price of petroleum. There are also people making insane amounts of money on the inane shipping of drinking water half-way across the world. For something which flows out of taps in our homes, we, even gladly pay more than four or five dollars a gallon.

How do I know this? How do I know that I was the thief, stealing money from my own wallet, doing my part to drive up energy costs? Simple. One day, in that Stratus I just bought, I filled up the tank and said to myself, I am going to drive the speed limit and see what it gets me.

It got me four more miles per gallon, from about 25 to just over 29. To put that another way, from that moment on I began to give myself a 16% discount on the cost of fuel.

The most interesting thing about the change in behavior was not what it did to my wallet, but what it did to my head. What it has done is helped me relax a bit and to look at the world a bit differently.

The first thing I noticed when I started to go the speed limit is that all the travel times I have in my head are now wrong. I have lived in Southern Erie County for over 15 years and I can tell you, barring bad weather or serious traffic jams, exactly how long it takes to get somewhere. Maybe its a guy thing, I don't know, I just do it.

The problem is that now all the old times are wrong. My brain is only slowly beginning to recalculate the values. The loss of time is less than you would think, but we are so busy the impatience factor overwhelms us. I know, because I used to think unkind thoughts about people who actually drove the speed limit.

Please know it is really hard for me to keep to my pledge and not speed up, especially when I am running late. I already apologized to those I now annoy; I now apologize to those I used to find annoying.

Another thing is that it is absolutely true is that many of you who work so hard to get around me and ahead of me wind up in my rear view mirror. Traffic patterns are a funny thing, and sometimes its hard to get ahead. I am more relaxed, not trying to get ahead, and it gives me time to say a prayer for those who pass me, a prayer that they get where they are going safely and on time.

There are other advantages to slowing down. They are all in my head. It's funny how I still have that old go for the brake reaction when I see a police car. The reaction has been such a part of driving for me that it seems hardwired in my brain.

As time passes the old feeling hits my brain, but I more quickly relax and just keep going. After all, my seat belt is on, the registration is current and I am driving at the legal speed! I don't have to worry about getting a ticket for that any more. It's simply because I now no longer intentionally break the law every time I get in the car.

I realize that all this sounds self-righteous and self-serving. I don't mean it to be. I have been around long enough to know that I may change my mind next week. After all, if I said I'm going to drive the speed limit on a whim one day I might go back to the old pattern of trying to figure out how fast I can go without getting into trouble.

The truth is that the amount of gas I save on most days does not exceed the cost of a venti, or large or whatever coffee. Heck, I can afford it if I want to pay. Besides, and this is just between us, I drove above the speed limit for decades. I am not about to cast the first stone, at least not on this issue.

Consider the benefits. Driving the speed limit cuts down on stress. It saves fuel, reduces pollution and in a small way does a bit to combat climate change. It can be freeing and empowering. I invite you to join me, or at least give me a friendly wave when you pass me on the Thruway. I'll try to wave back.

Gary Schindler is trying to save gas in Springville, where he is vicar of St. Paul's Episcopal Church and on staff at the Samaritan Pastoral Counseling Center of the Niagara Frontier.

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