John Colson: Hit and Run
July 1, 2010
Today, the day of publication of this column, is July 4, 2010, and I’m making my mid-year resolution (OK, I’m a little late, so sue me).
And my resolution is this – no more cell-phone use in my car, not by me, not while I’m behind the wheel.
If I’m in the passenger seat, it will depend on the circumstances. If I get a call and bother to check to see who it is, and I deem it important, I might answer it. Or, I might not. My mood will be the deciding factor.
Because, by all that’s human and under siege by modern technology, I WILL NOT BE RULED by some device smaller than my hand and new enough to my little world that I don’t even fully understand how to use it.
I know, there’s a level of inconsistency here. If I truly felt that cell phones were the instruments of some High-Tech Devil, I would toss the thing into the trash and go back to land-line calling only, as my higher-self is demanding. Or perhaps simply revert to the use of letters and telegrams, although anything so extreme would mean the end of my journalism career, which some out there might view as a plus.
But, despite my Luddite tendencies, I have to admit that the damned things represent a level of convenience and immediacy in communication that has caught on with my lower self. You know, that part of all of us that insists on instant gratification of all whims, and sees ourselves as tiny individualistic centers of the known universe (despite all the evidence that it’s a mighty big world and we’re relatively insignificant parts of it all).
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I also am fed up with being constantly in touch, constantly badgered by calls that interrupt what might be an important thought or act with that cursed vibration against my thigh (I carry the thing in my pocket, not in a holster, and try always to leave it on “vibrate” while in public settings.)
Worst of all, of course, is the shame of sitting someplace where quiet is the rule of the moment, such as while covering a murder trial or a public hearing on some critical topic, and having to frantically scramble to get the thing out of my pocket and turn off the ringer, which inexplicably has somehow switched itself to the “loud” mode.
The most immediate source of this little outburst of irritability is a segment I heard on NPR this morning, about how anti-texting-while-driving laws go into effect this month in six states, joining a number of others on the books.
Not that I need such a law, or believe it will eliminate the problem. It’s just that I’m one of those lucky ones who sees no particular value to spending my time staring at the keyboard of my little device, hunting and pecking out letters to send abbreviated, coded messages to whomever might be at the other end of the line.
It helps that texting remains a mystery to me, since I have refused to try it and therefore have never learned how to do it. Sort of a self-fulfilling discipline/stubbornness. Sort of.
So, you’ll never have to worry about weaving to avoid me on a sidewalk because my focus is on my black-whatever in my hands, rather than on foot traffic around me.
And while texting in the car was never a possibility, I was guilty of groping for my cell phone and staring at the display to see who it was, and sometimes answering it. So, I was open to the charge of “distracted driving.”
But no more – at least not with cell phones. Now if I could just figure out how to keep myself from swiveling my gaze from side to side as I drive down the road, eager to take in everything from a sudden vista of mountainous splendor, to an interesting ranch complex, to a gaggle of pretty women standing in front of a coffee shop.
Maybe, once I overcome that particular type of distractibility, my wife will believe I am a safe bet behind the wheel and relax a little bit.