The smartphones that people use for texting are PHONES. That means that you can, in most cases, set a voice command to call a number: "Home". "Jackie." "Bob." "Tony's Pizza."
Talking on the phone while driving, even with a handsfree set, is distracting enough. I've had to attend teleconferences while driving Mr. Brilliant to chemotherapy. I don't like to do it, and I usually say at the outset that I am on to listen, but I probably won't speak. This is because my handsfree earpiece has no mute button, and the screen of the phone is difficult to see in the morning sun. I've reached a point now where I just don't attend, because it is just too much to focus on while driving down an already-treacherous Garden State Parkway at rush hour -- and because Mr. Brilliant has a habit of forgetting that I am on a teleconference and yelling "Asshole!" at other drivers (who really are). But one thing I never, ever do is text while driving.
I don't see how anyone can text while driving. I have a hard time with the tiny keyboard when I am sitting in my house. But I can always tell the texters. They're the ones crossing the line to the left, and then to the right, and back again. They're the ones who slow down from 65 down to 50 for no reason. They're the ones who realize at the last minute that they are close to their exit and cross four lanes of traffic in a quarter mile. They're the ones who don't bother to even slow down coming out of side streets. The handset-talkers aren't much better, and despite stiff fines in New Jersey, not a day goes by that I don't see someone yakking on a hand-held phone.
I don't know why people need this constant communication. I realize I don't have as large a social circle as some people do, but unless there is some kind of dire emergency, why do we need to be talking or texting 24 hours a day? When we are going to the supermarket, why do we need to be on the phone constantly? What is so urgent that it can't wait ten minutes?
It isn't just while driving, either. My employer is about to move us to an "open concept" workspace building, and the thing I dread most about it, other than losing my 30-second zone-out "power naps" when I have been working till 11:30 PM for fifteen straight days and am so sleep-deprived that I can hardly see (another road risk, I might add...), is the damn cell phones. Already, people set their ringtones to "LOUD" so that when they leave their desks to get coffee, they can hear it and run back. Why they don't take the phones with them, I have no idea. One colleague has a husband who calls her at least every hour. If he can't get her on her office phone, he'll call her cell phone. And he will do this every five minutes until she answers the phone. It's going to be horrible.
I use texting more than I used to, but I never use it in the car, and if for some reason I need to make a phone call, I pull over to the side of the road. I've been dealing with crises for nearly a solid year, between my mother's last illness in September 2012, her death, and then only ten weeks later, Mr. Brilliant's diagnosis and treatment. There have been hospitals, trips to my sister's to clean out and organize, driving and driving and driving; communicating what's going on, and trying to juggle work through the whole thing. And not once have I needed to send a text message while driving. So who on earth do all these people need to text and drive? Or call and drive? Can't we wait ten minutes for anything anymore?
The film above, directed by Werner Herzog, will be shown in over 40,000 high schools. It should make a difference. But it won't. Because we are too fucking busy insisting that our right to do anything we want outweighs anyone else's right to live. We see it with guns. And we're going to see it with texting. Because in our devolution from a society in which people look out for each other into one the motto of which is "I Got Mine And Fuck You", we are no longer able to look past our own noses.
Labels: personal musings, societal decline, technology