Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw
September 9, 2008
Hey, you! Shut up!
Hang up the damn phone and drive!
Look, I know this is something that’s been hashed out too many times already. Just bringing up the subject of people talking on their cell phones while they’re driving can make everyone’s eyes glaze over.
But please remember this: That glaze of boredom will be nothing whatsoever compared to the permanent glaze that will settle over your eyes when some idiot runs you down because he was just so damn busy talking on the phone.
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Last winter, crossing the street, in a crosswalk, at a stop sign, I almost got run over by some stupid young woman who was busy talking on her cell phone. She stopped at the stop sign ” that was good. Then, as I crossed in front of her car, she began accelerating. (And, no, I do not think she was an unhappy reader of this column trying to take her just revenge.)
I jumped out of the way ” no mean feat, since I was wearing ski boots. I screamed.
She stopped and gave me a dirty look ” apparently for being so rude as to interrupt her Very Important Chat.
I somehow resisted the urge to jam my ski pole into her eye.
She drove off.
Not really a major event, but almost. For me, anyway.
But it’s just one story. I bet everyone reading this column (yeah, yeah: both of you)
has a story at least that bad.
Every day it seems I see someone doing a terrible job of driving ” and most of the
time they’re talking on the damn phone.
What’s most amazing to me is the number of people who blather away deep into their Very Important Chats while doing really demanding maneuvers behind the wheel.
Case in point: Right next to the Aspen Times building, I frequently see people backing out of the Carl’s Pharmacy parking spaces, into the traffic on Monarch Street while talking on the phone. There’s often heavy traffic turning off Main Street, lots of pedestrians, other people pulling out of the gas station, cars waiting to find parking spaces … it’s a mess!
And there they are ” these oblivious dimwits ” driving one-handed while chattering away.
Just last week, I was waiting to turn into the post office parking lot while some clown in a big red pickup truck tried to pull out of the lot. He was doing a rotten job of making the sharp left-hand turn … while driving one-handed and talking on the phone.
Apparently, something in the way I was waiting there displeased him. He stared at me and very clearly mouthed the word “A**hole!”
He was doing three things at once: driving, talking on the phone and cursing at me.
And, actually, a fourth thing: displaying his impeccable manners. Instead of shouting his obscenity, he mouthed the word silently, out of courteous consideration for the person he was talking to on the phone. He didn’t want to scream in their ear.
For an a**hole.
I remember a number of years ago, the Aspen City Council considered making it illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving.
Several conservative council members led the charge to kill the effort.
Sadly, they succeeded.
I remember one of their arguments was that people come to Aspen from all over the world ” and people everywhere else talk on cell phones whenever and wherever they please.
What ” these councilmen asked ” will our European visitors think when they get a ticket in Aspen for something that’s legal and common in their home countries?
Why ” they argued ” those Europeans will think we’re ignorant, provincial, up-tight puritanical American boobs! That’s what.
I have to pause and note how amusing it is to think that our own brave conservatives were so deeply concerned about the opinions of Europeans.
We don’t care what they think when we launch a war. But, heavens to Betsy!, we can’t let them be upset by our cell-phone regulations.
Anyway, now those same European countries are rapidly passing their own laws against talking on the phone while driving.
So now they come here and are amazed to find these brutal, ignorant Americans endangering their lives by driving recklessly, mindlessly, while talking on the phone.
It occurs to me that the same argument was raised when Aspen made it illegal to smoke in restaurants.
I recall hearing cries that it was going to kill our tourist business ” especially when it came to Europeans.
Now it’s becoming illegal to smoke indoors almost everywhere in Europe.
Banning smoking didn’t kill our tourist business, but failing to ban cell phones while driving just might kill a few of our tourists.
Look, I’m not really in favor of the dreaded Nanny State. I don’t think the government ought to protect us against the stupid things we do to ourselves.
I don’t think motorcyclists should be required to wear helmets. If they want to scramble their brains, that’s their business.
But I also don’t think society ought to have to pay for their medical treatment after they bounce their unprotected skulls off the asphalt.
Same goes for cigarettes. You want to smoke? Fine by me. You want to die from lung cancer? Be my guest.
But don’t make me inhale your leftover smoke while I’m trying to eat dinner ” or when I’m just trying to, you know, breathe.
I feel the same way about a lot of things.
You can endanger yourself ” or just flat-out go ahead and kill yourself ” almost any way you want.
But you don’t get to take me with you.
So, please, hang up the damn phone and drive!
And when you get where you’re going, you can pull over, park the car, turn off the engine … then go ahead. Make a phone call, smoke a cigarette, whatever you want.
Just leave me out of it.
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