How I Got My Husband to Slow Down and Enjoy the Ride

by Barb, first post from Key West, first post of 2023

Often, when I give talks about my books, I mention that my husband creates the recipes because he does the shopping and cooking at our house.

“Oooh,” many women in the audience say. “How did you accomplish that? That’s the book you should write. You’d sell a million copies.”

The truth is, it wasn’t hard. My husband grew up in a household where his father did all the shopping and some of the cooking. “Always marry the oldest child of a working mother,” is my advice.

But toward the goal of getting people to take on tasks, one thing I did learn along the way is that I can get my husband to do almost anything if I can locate the proper gadget.

For example, I made salads for decades. For some reason, I was the salad maker in the family I grew up in, and somehow I was also the salad maker in the family I brought up. How did this happen? I would wonder. But it did. Then, I discovered a sleek, stainless steel salad spinner that did everything but chop the lettuce and sounded like an alien space ship when it turned. Suddenly, my husband took over the salad making. (He still claims my salads are better, but I suspect this is one of those situations like morning coffee. It’s always better if someone else makes it…because someone else made it.)

A friend of mine’s husband used to wander into Sharper Image or William Sonoma, pick up things, and ask the clerk, “Now what could I use this for?” Her father thought this was hilarious, a solution in search of a problem. A gadget in search of a task. But sometimes it works.

Principle: Some people will do anything if you give them an interesting gadget to accomplish the task.

I have now discovered another technique for changing behavior.

My husband has always been a quintessential Massachusetts driver, or Masshole, as the people who live in the states that surround us would have it. His driving is fast, aggressive, and based on the principle that everyone else on the road is an idiot, something he loudly declaims as he drives. (He’s the nicest man in any other situation, and he would have me point out at this juncture that he’s never had an accident. Cautious, conservative me has.)

He had a milestone birthday this spring. Seeing a possible opening, I said to him, “You know, your reflexes probably aren’t what they once were. Maybe it’s time to slow down.”

This went over about as well as you’d expect. (In fairness I need to say I hadn’t noticed any change in his driving skills. And since his cataract surgery this fall, he sees better than he has ever before in his life. I was merely taking what I thought was my best shot. Turned out it wasn’t.)

And so the situation remained. Until, this August when, a year after we ordered it, we picked up our fully electric car.

The car has a little gauge on the dash that tells you when you are in the optimal battery use zone and what your average miles per kilowatt hour are.

On our drive from Maine to Key West, he had the cruise control set at the speed limit and was driving in the right hand lane, giving me breathless reports about how much battery we were consuming. It was almost more of an adjustment than I could take. And it has led me to develop a corollary for my principle.

Principle: Some people will do anything if you give them an interesting gadget to accomplish the task.

Corollary: Some people will radically change their behavior if provided with a game.

So there you are. You can teach old dogs new tricks. Or maybe, this trick was available to me all along, I was just slow in learning it.

Readers: What are your experiences in changing human behavior? Any tips or tricks? Are there any you use on yourself?

26 Thoughts

  1. I love this story, Barb! I have driven with Bill, as you know, just before the electric car arrived, so I can back you up on the old behavior.

    When I got my first Prius in 2009, I was obsessed with maximizing my MPG. I haunted the hypermiler user forum and really changed the way I drive – permanently. I also remember the oil shortage era, when highway speed limits were reduced to 55 and police enforced them. It really does make a difference, but obviously those habits didn’t stick once the limits were raised again.

  2. Oh, Barbara, this morning you brought my grandmother’s voice and wisdom alive. She always said “ The only difference between the men and the boys is the size and the cost of their toys.” Thank you. PS Grammy w was born in 1885.

  3. I love it!

    I signed up for one of those drive-safe-and-save discount things with my insurance company. They provide you with a tracker and an app so you can see your incidents of speeding, braking, accelerating, or cornering too fast, using your phone while driving. It made me ultra aware of my driving, which I ultimately decided wasn’t necessarily good. Sometimes you have to accelerate too fast in order to not get flattened by a semi. I knew I needed to STOP trying to get the perfect score when I caught myself sliding through a traffic light that turned red just to avoid getting pinged for jamming on the brakes. Staying alive is preferrable to making the gadget/app happy.

    1. There were times a long the trip from Maine to Key West that there was a lot of traffic or construction, or usually, both together. Those situations required as I called it when I was doing it, “real driving,” and the cruise control and the right hand lane went out the window.

  4. Oh, too funny!!! My husband likes to buy gadgets too, only the cooking ones he buys are ones are “for MY benefit ” soooo you know I have a drawer full of doohickies I haven’t mastered!

    P.S. he’s also hunting for a good electric truck.

    1. One of the fun things about the electric car is talking to folks at the charging stations. I’ve seen a number of F150s and Rivians and it does appear that their owners love them.

  5. As another hybrid driver, yes, I like maximizing my mpg. But I found I was paying too much attention to the little indicator on the dashboard, so I turned that view off. The new car gives me a score on how economical my driving was. I drew the line when it was single digits out so I had the heat on high and it told me to consider a more moderate temperature. Um, car, do you KNOW how cold it is?

  6. I think we are married to the same kind of guy ( wait, are they long lost brothers perhaps?) I was grinning hugely and chuckling as I read your article to my hubby and then he got this huge grin on his face and actually chuckled, that is before he denied it-thanks for the morning laugh😆

    PS I love your books and read the whole clambake series thru covid

  7. Even though Bill was an aggressive driver, I always felt safe with him. Maybe it was sitting in the back seat with my eyes closed, praying — kidding. Our daughter recently said of Bob, “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 30 years it’s that he’s unmanageable.” She knows him well.

    1. My joke is that the screen in the car is bigger than our first TV was. Charging did add time. We are getting more efficient with it with practice, but we still aren’t there yet.

  8. I’m laughing at this.

    In your husband’s defense, other drivers are idiots. When they change three lanes to turn at an intersection, for example, they are clearly idiots. And I live in a town filled with them.

  9. How did you make it in an electric vehicle from Key West to Maine. Must have taken forever. Not for me. Batteries cost too much and when they burn, they burn forever. And do they run off? Electricty.

  10. But Hubby Dearest does most of the cooking and he is an excellent cook. He could be a chef at a great restaurant. But that is too much work.

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