Tied up on the phone

What follows is a recent conversation at our house.

Teen-aged son: “It’s not like you have to keep me on a leash!”
Mom: “What do you think that cell phone is?”
Dad (on the inside): “Oh, SNAP!”

While I have many misgivings about the proliferation of cell phones, I recognize that we parents have come to rely on them as electronic child monitors. Want to know what your teen is up to? Give him a call. The kid might lie or evade, but at least you’ll know he is still alive, probably safe, and at least sober enough to answer the phone. Also, you can listen for party noises in the background.

Thanks to a law that took effect last year, teens in California aren't allowed to use phones while driving. Older motorists can talk on cell phones only if they use hands-free devices. Instead of juggling a phone, a cup of coffee, a McBreakfast and a bottle of nail polish, motorists now juggle all those things and a wired-up earphone, too. Or, they use one of those Bluetooth devices that screw directly into the ear, which always remind me of The Borg, that humanoid/robotic species on “Star Trek: The Next Generation on Babylon 5 After Kirk Got So Fat.”

It would be safer if everyone simply stopped talking on the phone behind the wheel. Driving is tricky enough all by itself (especially in Redding, where the city motto should be: “We Will Pull Out Right in Front of You”). Phoning while driving is too complicated, especially for those of us who aren’t comfortable with new technology and mostly use our cells as pocket watches.

My wife got me one of the hands-free devices, but I haven’t learned how to use it yet. When my phone rings, I either let voicemail handle it or I pull over.

Better that I miss an important call than become one of those motorists who weave all over the road, randomly speeding up and slowing down, while trying to dial and talk and thumb-type text messages. I hate those drivers so much that I’ll endure all kinds of inconvenience to avoid joining their ranks.

With the new law in place, those motorists now have a degree of anonymity. Before, if I saw someone driving stupidly, I always got smug satisfaction in confirming that he had a phone to his ear.

“Aha,” I’d think. “Talking on his cell. I knew it!”

Now, I can’t tell unless I pass the motorist and see his lips moving. Even then, maybe he’s singing along with the radio. Maybe he’s talking to himself. Maybe I don’t want to honk at a person who’s ranting to himself like a madman, no matter how badly he’s driving. Maybe he’s packing a bazooka.

Whenever I’m in traffic with cell chatterers, I always wish my own phone had another feature: A “Star Trek”-style ray gun that could disable other vehicles. Not permanently. Just long enough to get those motorists off the road so they could finish their conversations and pay attention to their driving.

“Gentlemen,” I could say in my best Capt. Kirk voice, “set your phones on ‘stun.’”

Zap! More yakkers stranded beside the road. Bwahahahaha!

They’d have to call for tow trucks. Hands-free, of course.

1 comment:

Ivan Toblog said...

I am amazed at the number of folks who still drive with cell phones plastered to the side of their head.

The cell phone folks irritate me almost as much as store clerks who will interrupt a transaction to take a phone call.