Commentary: Your Vehicle, This Pandemic

There are some things that are missing in our lives. These days of being at home, staying safe, self quarantined, and socially distanced (rather, physically distanced) are keeping us in place. But, as spring arrives in most of this country, our yearning to be free becomes fresh in our minds.

But, how do we answer the to be free in the springtime?

We can walk, run, take our dogs to the park. We can also drive to the store, as it is considered essential travel.

Or, we can do other outdoor activities. For example, going to a park or forest. To get there, we have to drive, right?

There was a legal definition of outdoor activities that do include “driving for pleasure.” I know that some lawyers and government attorneys would wrangle with that definition, but it’s in the law. In plain English.

By driving, you are adhering to social distancing rules. It is just you or the ones who live with you inside your vehicle, right? You might not be six feet (or two meters) apart, but most vehicles in this country average around sixteen feet long and just over six feet wide.

At your destination, you can continue social distancing. You may have a hiking trail by yourself. Or, find a peaceful place to sit down and meditate. You may have to wear some gloves and a mask when you’re outside, as it is now recommended by the Centers for Disease Control to do.

There are other ways to fulfill your yearning to be free. You can drive in groups, within reasonable distance and numbers. It would depend on the limit on group gatherings in one place.

But, there are positive ways you can go driving. For example, a cause that fulfills a community need.

This past weekend, some of the car enthusiasts in the Twin Cities and Western Wisconsin came together for a cause in a parade in Lake Elmo, Minnesota to celebrate some children’s birthdays that have been missed because of school shutdowns and the government’s orders to stay home. It shows that you can still do things such as driving that feeds into a cause and follows the protocols of the government's orders.

Since then, there had been other drive-by birthday celebrations that already took place or are being planned. There was one event scheduled in June that would have been canceled, but instead will turn into a car parade to pass by certain homes that wanted to celebrate that event.

These are noble ideas. Yet, one must consider the penalty if we venture beyond what is considered "non-essential" by our government? Luckily, the public safety agencies here in Minnesota will initially approach and educate us before writing a citation for violating our governor’s order to #StayHomeMN. Being proactive in these times will help is ease out of this situation when there is an "all clear."

It could be worse. You could be in South Africa, where their defense forces and police appear to have roadblocks from border crossings to central business districts in major cities. One video from the SABC showed a group of men on the curb after being stopped by the authorities. It appears it was a stop regarding liquor in their vehicle, because the government banned the sale of these items during their national lockdown.

I know there will be some more pushback on the things that have been written in this article. One would argue that I am promoting selfish behavior. If it is being selfish to manage one's emotional health through these stressful times of self quarantining, then we are not looking at the total picture of wellness in our society. As long as they are being responsible, protected in gloves and masks, and practice social/physical distancing, then we should understand why someone wants to take a drive to clear the mind and free the soul.

Ultimately, you should be concerned about your health and everyone that resides under the same roof. If that means staying home and riding this storm out, please do so and adhere to the rules stated by your government.

In the meantime, make sure your vehicle is not idle to the point that everything stops working when this is all said and done. Go to your garage or wherever your vehicle is parked – and start it up. Let it run for a bit. Make sure the electronics work. Sit behind the wheel. Relax. Smile. Maybe, cry for joy.

The key to dealing with this pandemic through self-quarantine and social/physical distancing is to simply be patient. The time will come when we can all enjoy our vehicles again – without restrictions, of course!

NOTE: There is a great compilation of driving restrictions by state in an article in the New York Times. Check it all out by clicking the hyperlink.

Photo by Randy Stern

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