by Emma Ignaszewski
There’s no such thing as National Carpool Appreciation Day. Officially, that is. But I’d like to proclaim my genuine gratitude for all those who share the warmth of their cars and conversations with walkers like me.
So far this January, the average low (and often the approximate temperature at 7:30 in the morning) has been 10 degrees. Even a calm low wind of 5 mph can strip that temperature down to a ‘feels like’ temperature of 1.
And I’ll admit, even as much as I enjoy walking, it becomes increasingly difficult to muster enthusiasm for a morning commute by foot as the temperature becomes decreasingly comfortable.
One of my favorite people to follow online is Eric Larsen, polar explorer. In 2010, he became the first person to have reached the South and North poles and summited Everest within a year. When asked how he keeps warm in -50 degree temperatures, he says, “Attitude is everything.”
“If you think you’re going to be cold and miserable you are likely going to be cold and miserable. Realize through proper dress, behavior and mindfulness you can be warm no matter the temperature. People say they hate the cold. I think what they mean is they hate being cold. I agree, being cold sucks. It’s painful. I like being warm in very cold environments; you can do it, too.”
And he’s absolutely right. Look outside. It’s a wonderland out there, with soft white snow and enchanting steam wisps seeping from the building tops. The trees are vulnerable and bare, revealing their textured, storied bark. If we weren’t afraid of being painfully cold, we would explore winter more fully. And sometimes exploration is as simple as walking to work.
Some of us are lucky to have generous co-workers who volunteer their extra seats - I’ll take this opportunity to directly thank the lovely people at Seven Valleys Health Coalition, all of whom have graciously shared their seats and conversations with me. And I’ll also challenge myself to build up my grit and my wonder for winter walking simply by doing more of it.
According to a Consumer Solutions study, only 10% of people in the U.S. carpool. Instead, we drive alone, in our cars, the vast majority of which are built to seat 5 people. So I’ll also challenge you to carpool more. And if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, share the commute to work with a friend - but go carless. Walk or bike together to work - there is safety and friendship in numbers.
Thank you to all the carpoolers out there. Thank you for keeping 85 million gallons’ worth of fuel exhaust out of our air each year. Thank you for reducing traffic by 20%. Thank you for saving us $1.1 billion dollars a year. And thank you for keeping me warm when I think I’m going to be cold and miserable.
In exceedingly cool winters like the ones we have, it’s exceedingly cool when people are so willing to give the gift of a ride. So stay cool, Cortland.
Featured in the Car-Free in Cortland column for the Cortland Standard.