The sub-theme within Winter I'll be taking on is Winter Driving. Not entirely surprisingly, people had a lot they wanted to share about what they don't like. Brace yourself for a pretty lengthy entry. I've put down the steps I took to get some insight into the topic below.
The first person I talked to was Jose Ochoa, my dad. I'll qualify the use of an immediate family member with the fact that (with some overlap) he had 3 years of experience owning a repair shop, 35 years of experience as a mechanic, and has 22 years and counting of experience as a service advisor at various dealerships.
I started by asking questions about what car related problems he associates with winter.
Here are a few of the problems he addressed:
I had to redirect the interview a few times when my dad started to focus more on how to keep me safe during winter by bringing up problems like "Not having a safety kit. I'm putting one in your car when you come home."
One other interesting winter issue that came up was people with new cars bringing them in for minor rattles in squeaks in winter. It apparently happens just because these newer cars have a lot of plastic components, and there's not really anything that can be done to stop it. These people who have just spent all sorts of money on a new car end up have to just "deal with it." Not the kind of post purchase experience most people are hoping for.
Sometimes people try to approach their winter driving issues in creative ways which can actually lead to their detriment. Wanting to keep their carpets nice, some drivers will pile up floor mats on floor mats. Soon there's 4" of floor mats in their car, and it starts to interfere with their gas and break pedals. The pedals will get caught in the mats and pose a safety hazard.
The next person I interviewed was Sam, a roommate of a friend. His least favorite part about winter driving was getting into a cold car. I watched him look visibly distressed at the thought of it. His car has leather seats, and only the driver's side is heated. The last time he drove in the winter, he was late for an interview because it had snowed the night before and there were accidents causing traffic delays. He had even left with twice the time it would normally take.
The third person I talked to was Tom, another student. He had just made a three hour trip to Hibbing and encountered snowy weather for the first time since getting his new car. It was pretty clear from the start of the story that his experience had been a pretty negative one. His windshield wipers were old and, while ineffective during fall rain, they did very little to combat the snow and slush kicked up by other cars. Only a quarter of the drivers side was clear. They were lots of cars on the road, and he had a hard time judging where he was on the road. He had his wipers changed by a mechanic ($15) before driving again.
Tom strongly dislikes the winter driving experience, and actively avoids driving in winter. He specifically looked for a spring job that wouldn't require driving in order to avoid having to drive in traffic during inclement weather. To him, winter driving feels much more like a chore than summer driving. While a confident driver in summer, he sometimes feels nervous in winter, mostly due to traffic. He also identified the issue that it's more unpleasant to operate the steering wheel when the cold makes you want to keep your arms close to your body for warmth.
Since there isn't snow on the ground yet, it wasn't possible to observe that aspect of winter driving yet. What I noticed about the cold factor of winter driving is that some people I would ride in the car with would play off the cold as no big deal. Perhaps these people were concerned that showing how cold they were would make them appear less tough?
When I hit a road block with what I could observe at this point, I decided to look online to see if I could observe people's thoughts about winter driving via social media. While a different sort of observation, it did provide me with some pretty unfiltered sentiments. Here are a few of best/most common/entertaining ones:
By looking for areas where people were improvising, I was able to identify problem areas.
It was again difficult to fully experience winter driving at this point in time. I focused on the cold aspect, which I'm unfortunately already starting to experience. I will preface this with fact that I get cold extremely easily and dislike it intensely. As I write this, I am reveling in the fact that the utilities cost to keep my apartment cozy is included in my rent. A newbie to city driving, I am also dreading traffic in the snow. My car itself heats up pretty quickly. Where I run into problems is that the cold makes me want to do everything quickly and get it over with (running to my car, getting things out of my car, getting out of the parking spot and on the road), but inclement weather is going to cause me to slow everything down so that I don't fall or run into anything.
People dislike being cold
Cars require additional attention in the winter
People generally worry about other people's driving skills more than their own
My dad's customers need a way to protect their carpets safely because using too many floor mats can interfere with the gas and brake pedals.
Tom, Sam, and I need a way to stay warm until our cars heat up because we are all very averse to being cold.
Tom needs a way to clear his windshield in an emergency because driving with limited visibility is scary.