I have a recurring nightmare.
I’m driving in the city in bumper to bumper traffic, hyperventilating from claustrophobia.
There’s no petrol, and I have no idea what I’m going to do. And then as I start moving again, it becomes clear the brake pedal doesn’t work. I put my foot down as hard as I can, but I just keep moving faster and faster towards the car in front of me.
I know the dream is probably a metaphor for a complete lack of control – a manifestation of some deep-seated anxiety. But it’s also about driving in the goddamn city and feeling stuck.
After many years of near panic attacks, being trapped in a lane that hasn’t moved in 15 minutes for no reason, surrounded by construction work and nonsensical yelling, I had a very different experience when I tried a Toyota Hybrid for the first time.
As I drove through the city in a car I didn’t even know existed, I came up with some incredible hacks to turn city driving fear into something that looks and feels more like confidence. Here’s what I came up with:
1. ALWAYS be listening to a podcast.
Never ever let yourself listen to the sounds of the city because it is unequivocally bad for the soul.
The man next to you just stuck his head out the window and shouted a sentence that was somehow exclusively expletives? It would be impressive if it wasn’t so uncomfortably aggressive.
There’s drilling. There’s beeping. There’s someone else’s car radio up far too loud, playing a song that sounds like it should only be played in a nightclub at 4am.
Unless you’re driving a Toyota Hybrid. They are silent. You can hear virtually nothing from outside and the car itself never sounds like it’s actually… on. When I first drove the Hybrid, I was convinced I hadn’t pressed the button properly or something because the engine didn’t make a peep when in electric mode. But that’s just how they work.
So chucking a podcast on in this car is like being inside some sort of soundproof cinema.
Being trapped in the city isn’t so stressful if you can maximise efficiency. One afternoon, I entered the car knowing the bare minimum about US President Donald Trump, and left with a bloody PhD in the life of one of America’s sleaziest businessmen.
I have an absurdly deep knowledge of anything true crime. From interviews, to news of the day, to comedy, to audio books, driving in the city has become of the most productive and calm periods of my life.