The use of cell phones while driving: The rant
Thursday, July 19, 2012 7:34 AM
I saw, somewhere, this quote: "I don't have pet peeves, I have kennels of irritation." For a while, one of the inhabitants of said kennels was the failure of some drivers to signal their turns. But nowadays, topping my list by a wide margin, is the current fashion of using a cell phone while driving. Talk about an accident waiting to happen.
Sometime early in June, I was in town, driving south on Day Street from Broadway toward that steep hill. (Day Street confuses me. When I go up a hill, I always feel like I should be going north.) There was a car a bit ahead of me, not quite to the base of the hill, and that driver had to swerve into the intersecting street's "apron" to avoid a head-on collision with this female, who was driving a van which had picked up speed in its descent from the top of that hill down the middle of the street.
Let me repeat: down the middle of the street. This female was, of course, talking into her cell phone. If I could have turned around fast enough to catch up with this disaster on wheels after she had passed both of us, I would have given her a big piece of my mind. She would have lived to rue the day she ever met me, which is more than I could have said for her had she actually met that other driver head-on.
This is not to say I've never had fender-benders or near-accidents, but playing with a toy has never been the proximate cause. (I learned long ago not to try to "buckle-up for safety" while going 70 mph. It's kind of self-defeating.) It's easy enough for me to have an accident even without a cell phone; why should I make it any easier?
I understand the theory of getting better results with honey rather than vinegar; of being encouraging and setting a good example rather than being vengeful and setting the appropriate head on a pike. But no matter how ostentatiously I don't use my phone in the car, there are scads of people who simply refuse to follow my shining lead.
Personally, I like a good, eloquently phrased threat, and I would like to share several of them with you on the outside chance they might come in handy for you someday. I never have occasion to use them, myself, because the behavior of Decorahans is such that opportunities to employ them effectively are exceedingly scarce.
Of course, the "cell-phone-in-the-car" fetish could be considered ample justification for the deployment of these little beauties, but I can't yell them loud or fast enough to be heard through the windows of a moving vehicle. It's a shame, really. They're quite fine, and roll trippingly on the tongue.
There is Scrooge's famous declaration: "... (he) should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart!"
And the ominous question posed by Terry Pratchett's great (but small) god Om: "How would you like to be an abomination in the nethermost pit of chaos?"
And this creative deterrent from Dilbert's Alice (dig the visual here): "... I'll pound your inconsiderate head so far into your torso, you'll have to drop your pants to say hello."
And the top-of-the-line, unsurpassed, most glorious threat ever penned comes from a Christopher Moore character: "I will slap you so far into next week that it will take a team of surgeons just to get Wednesday out of your ass."
This is what I fantasize saying to anyone who should happen to hit me with his car because he was using a cell phone while driving. In fact, this is what I fantasize doing to anyone who should happen to hit me with his car because he was using his cell phone while driving.
Allow me to rephrase that: This is what I fantasize the police doing, for though I be fierce, I am but little, and even in my dreams I would probably succeed merely in pounding somebody's belly fat, or slapping him only far enough into next week so as to get part of Sunday afternoon tea-time up his butt.
Honestly, if you are not a brain surgeon on call or a fireman, what is so important that it cannot wait until you are parked to retrieve the message or to ring somebody up? There ought to be a law. People grump about the government setting too many regulations. Well, if people didn't consistently demonstrate such an appalling lack of common sense, the government would not feel compelled to interfere so much.
I know a lot of customers and potential customers of various businesses (from plumbing to construction, to computer tech, to interior design) are not very patient. They are spoiled by the instantaneousness of life nowadays. (Take oatmeal, for example. Do you know how long it takes to cook regular oatmeal? Five minutes over a flame, three minutes in a microwave. But even that is too slow for us. It has to be "instant." Good grief.)
I think they should learn to chill out and not expect every business on the planet to be at their beck and call 24/7. Rampant impatience and unreasonable expectations are huge contributing factors to cell-phone mania on the road, because just about every self-employed person feels he has to jump every time that four-inch tyrant rings, lest he lose a customer.
If I call you, personally or on business, you may rest assured I shall not be in the least put out if you wait until you are safely stopped to pick up the message and call me back. In fact, I will feel better if you don't answer, because that way I'll know my call is not causing you to die a fiery (and instant) death.
I could go on to muse philosophically about the correlation between the ever-increasing popularity of computer-based social networks and the ever-increasing lack of consideration, not so much for one's fellow-man on the global stage, but for one's fellow-man right in front of one's face; a dwindling awareness of other people "in the flesh," as it were. But that would be a whole other article.
There is a bumper sticker advising us to "see bicycles." How about, "See the big car"? "See pedestrians"? "See the scenery"? Get off the phone. Leave it at home or in the glove compartment if you've no will power. Use it only for emergencies. (And no, forgetting to remind your husband to pick up the milk does not constitute an emergency. Nor does the desire to relay the details of your colonoscopy, prostate exam, kids' traumas, dating crises, or bad hair day. Not in the car and not in the check-out line at the store. Thank you very much.)
You don't set off the air-bags every time you get in your car, do you? Why get your wind-bags going every time you're behind the wheel?
There. I hope my two articles have helped the community to experience a group catharsis with regard to this aspect of modern technology. Take a breath. Cell phones are not going away. All we can do is strongly encourage people to get a life, practice awareness and wait until they are at home, or at least stationary, to use the buggers.
Good luck, fellow missionaries. Go forth and preach - silence. Rev. John Caldwell's recent riff on Dubussy was dead-on: It is the spaces between the notes that make music - and life - so exquisite.
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