License to be Annoying…

05 Jan

I’ve followed the cell phone use while driving ban discussion and I confess a certain bias, as I’m not a fan of mobile phones or even static phones for that matter. I probably inherited this from my mother, who hated talking on the phone. In fact, we were without a phone entirely for about three blissfully quiet years in my youth. Yes, it was significantly more difficult to get in touch with us. No, that was not a bad thing.

I have a cell phone now. I enjoy the convenience, but I don’t understand how it became a necessity. I recall an ex-girlfriend of mine who would always answer her cell phone when it rang — no matter what else she was doing. Watching a movie, reading a book, eating a meal, driving a car, cheating on me — if it rang, she answered. I pointed out that prior to cell phones, if someone tried to reach us during those moments, the call would usually go to voice mail or to an answering machine and we’d call them back later. Rarely, did we miss a brief window to receive an all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii or to say goodbye to our dying aunt in Hawaii (in which case the prevous all-expenses paid trip would have come in handy). Yet, now we will instantly stop what we’re doing to answer the ringing cell phone.

Perhaps it’s human nature to make convenience mandatory. Prior to answering machines, if you were expecting an important call, you had to stay at home, close to the phone. Once answering machines came along, we started screening calls, which helped us to avoid telemarketers and nosy neighbors.

Call-waiting allowed us to avoid getting a busy signal if we’re calling someone who’s already on the phone. However, that eventually led to someone clicking over to the incoming call every five seconds: “What? Your call broke down on a road and there’s a guy with a hook coming toward you? Wait… sorry, I have another call.”

It occurs to me that these conveniences led to a lack of courtesy. Call waiting is the equivalent of trying to have a conversation with someone and being constantly interrupted. Worse, the person you’re talking to actually brushes you off to speak with the other person.

My issue with cell phones probably stems from the fact that I’m not much of a multi-tasker. If I’m listening to music, I am listening to music. It does not serve as background. If I’m reading a book, I am focused on the book. If I’m watching TV, don’t dare come between me and “The Avengers.”

Cell phones and cars also manage to combine my two least favorite things into a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup of frustration. My fear of a head-on collision is exacerbated by the knowledge that my fellow drivers are updating their Facebook statuses while behind the wheel. Last words have gotten far less profound in our Facebook and Twitter world. We’ve gone from “More light!” (Goethe) to “Gym was crowded today. Waited 20 minutes for elliptical.” In retrospect, maybe the Facebook post was more elucidating than Goethe.

I know some people believe banning cell phone use while driving is excessive legislation, just like seat belts laws (it’s fun for kids to bounce around the car; it also tires them out) and the requirement that vehicles have a sealed floor (Flintstone locomotion is more fuel efficient than the best hybrid).

However, if on your next flight, you discovered that the pilot was eating McDonald’s take-out, listening to Kool & the Gang with the bass thumping, and talking on her cell, you’d be horrified. But she’s at least a professional pilot. The kid doing the same thing at 70 miles per hour on the freeway just got his license last week. He’s hardly as accomplished as the drivers in “Ronin.”

Things might have changed since I received my license 20 years ago, but I was not allowed to eat food, have the radio on, or send telegrams to my friends during the road test. If it’s expected that people are going to drive with countless distractions, it seems reasonable that those distractions are present during the test. If you can still pass, fine, you are awarded with a license to drive and be annoying.

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Posted by on January 5, 2012 in Pop Life, Social Commentary


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