Only Pretending To Drive

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It used to be that you could talk on the phone while you drove around in your car; in fact it used to be the sign that you were awesome.

Before cellular phones became affordable, driving around and talking on the phone was not just the sign that you were an important person but that you also had money to burn.

After wireless carriers began offering affordable plans it seemed like everyone began capitalizing on the opportunity to multitask for greater productivity, especially in really important areas; like having the “relationship defining conversation” as you drove out to Vegas so you knew how much fun you could have when you got there.

Talking on the phone soon joined the list of time-honored driving electives, like shaving, applying make-up, or eating a Whopper.  Nobody cared about seeing someone with a phone held to their head, in fact you were talking on the phone so much that you went to the store to buy a cigarette lighter adapter for your charger.

It was legal & socially acceptable to drive one-handed,

Or two knees,

So long as you had two eyes on the road.

It all went south when phones began doing more than just making and receiving calls.

The first time I truly endangered my life while driving it was because of cellphone, specifically the Nokia 6110.  As anybody who was alive in 1997 can tell you the folks at Nokia changed the game by releasing a phone that contained an addictive little game called “Snake”.

If you think that people are addicted to Angry Birds or Candy Crush Saga, you haven’t seen anything compared the summer of 1998 when entire movie theaters were filled with people looking at Snake… while listening to Bruce Willis save our planet from a giant meteor.

That’s when text messaging changed the game completely.

At first blush, Text Messaging made no sense to anybody over the age of 17.  After agreeing to a 2 year plan and picking out your new phone at the car stereo superstore back in the year 2000, you walked out of the place to discover that your phone began telling you things that you didn’t know, while claiming to be your friend:

Ptch Blck @ 8pm? – Garrett

“What? How does my phone know who Garrett is… and what he’s doing tonight?”

In fact, Your first 20 interactions with text messages were so confusing (and expensive) that you didn’t reply back, you CALLED your friend Garrett to ask him if he really did contact you about seeing a movie, and why didn’t he just call you and invite you on the phone that you are paying by the minute for?

Two years later, when you could finally sign up for your new unlimited texting plan, you had gotten good enough at sending texts (by counting how many times you pressed each button without looking at the keypad) that you no longer called people anymore, you spent your time obsessed with the free messages pouring into the tiny screen in the palm of your hand.

If you’re keeping score at home, it’s now 2003 and we’ve got one hand on the wheel and no eyes on the road.

-Talking on the phone while driving was never really our problem, texting is.-

Text messaging is the reason we’ve lost the ability to operate phones in the car without some type of fanciful headset.  While this stop-gap measure has certainly saved countless lives it has also given birth to some other ridiculous side effects.

You aren’t allowed to hold your phone to your head anymore because it’s a dead giveaway that you’re breaking the law… regardless of the fact that you have a hand on the wheel and two eyes on the road, something that is still legal if you are reading a map,  eating french fries, or rifling through your glove compartment; activities that take your eyes off the road.

In our new paradigm, people who did not properly wire themselves to receive phone calls before driving are suddenly confronted by a ringing phone with no way to answer it before it goes to voicemail.

This creates the new phenomenon of answering the call, then hitting the speakerphone and holding the phone flat, far enough away from your head to not be a dead giveaway to the cops, but close enough to your mouth to shout into.

You see this all the time don’t you?

I’m pretty sure the cops know what’s going on.  They’re out on the roads everyday.  They see the people driving around with elevated phones.  We aren’t really getting away with anything.

The real danger to society isn’t the elevated phone, it’s the lowered phone isn’t it?

The phone being held below the dashboard is a clear signal that somebody isn’t really driving, they’re texting… or playing Words with Friends.  These people also think that they’ve got everybody fooled too.

They think they look so casual with the seat leaned back, slouched at an angle that they think hides the head tilt that points their eyes down towards the screen.  They look like Vanilla Ice rolling in his 5.0.

These are the people causing all the 5 mile-an-hour accidents in stop and go traffic.

These are the people parked in the front row at green lights.

These are the people who are texting while simply pretending to drive.

Americans have a problematic relationship with phones and automobiles, but it isn’t really a problem of talking out loud while having just one hand on the wheel is it?  We don’t have nationwide crackdowns on people who’ve just picked up a 99 cent twisty cone from the drive through at McDonalds.

The problem isn’t with our hands, it’s with our eyes.

So what’s my solution proposal?

New Law:

Phones above the dash? No harm no foul.

Phones below the dash? $500 fine.

Let’s keep America rolling people.

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