Wednesday, July 22

1. Make Car Phone Use Mandatory. 2. Eliminate Nanny-State Stop Lights and Speed Limits. 3. Problem Solves Itself, Six Months, Tops.

OH, Touché, sir:
I’ve seen studies that rate eating in a car as roughly equivalent to talking on the phone.

Shall we then ban McDonald’s drive-thru lanes, or force Starbucks to serve only in porcelain cups for local use? That would be enforceable and probably save far more lives than an unenforceable law against talking on a phone.

--Some Guy on the Internets
Save more lives? You mean, if people refused to eat at McDonald's altogether as a result?

Okay, so they tell me one of the benefits of Age [strike benefits as too strong] is the learning to roll with the punches, the mastery of the sad, knowing smile, the philosophical shrug, the strategic hearing-aid disconnect, but I don't think They properly reckoned the accumulated perniciousness of Reaganism, Ayn Rand, and Reality Teevee. I can handle the repetition of fallacious arguments my grandfather brushed aside in ten seconds flat, even when those arguments are presented--as they frequently are--as the brilliant insight of the current speaker; I can take internet dumbassery in general, or rampant public cupidity; though I'm far from inured to political corruption, perpetual personal grievance, the Business Model of Everything, the substitution of "Hucksterism" for "Business" in the previous example, as well as everywhere else, the substitution of a Continual Repaving Project for Learning from our Mistakes, hypocrisy, hyperreality, Bronze Age superstition, and the current American propensity to root against the underdog, I'm able to deal with them, in the abstract, at least. What I'm finding to be a greater challenge than I anticipated, back in the green fields of Youth, when I dreamed of one day being a cranky geezer subsumed with writing Letters to the Editor and chasing dogs off my property with a pool cue, is managing to lift all this crap when it all piles together.

1. Talking on the phone while driving leads to accidents.

2. The Bush administration apparently sat on revelation #1.

Now, don't get me wrong; these matters ought to be reported, even if they ought not surprise anyone. And in an age where you don't just have a fortnight's wall-to-wall panegyric for a deceased professional boy dancer who mere hours before his untimely death was considered, with more than a little justification, to be a child-molesting freak of the first order, but that it must include some massive lying-in-state routine whose $multi-million cost falls to a bankrupt government in a bankrupt state of tax revolters which then, as nineteen ravening networks, and their nineteen gunky eyes, look on, turns out to have involved countless layers of grifting--who'd'a thunk it?--well, it's practically Pulitzer material. The question isn't even How'd We Get To This Point?; it's How'd We Get To The Point Where There's Nothing Whatsoever We Can Do About It, Except Engulf It In Flames?

The goddam onion is all skin! Fer chrissakes: no one could possibly have ever imagined that talking on the phone while driving was anything other than an unconscionable hazard to everyone else sharing Your Road (I almost said "innocent drivers", but they're all on the fucking phone, too). No one could have thought, in 2003, 2001, 1999, or whenever the words "Bush" and "for President" were linked a second time that it was anything other than a publicity stunt and a recipe for (further) disaster, though the scale was a bit surprising. And no one who claims to believe that that administration didn't take "Criminal collusion with any and all potential Republican donors" as part of that Unwritten Constitution only it could read is either a dolt or a Republican donor. If the Bush administration--in fairness, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which, whatever the natural proclivities of bureaucrats to snuggle up with the nearest warm pile of Loot, surely needed no Interagency Liaison with the National Weather Service to know which way the Wind blew--was keeping mum, exactly what was stopping the crackerjack actuaries at all those AIG auto insurance subsidiaries? Ah, but, y'know, "Hey, what about fast-food drive ups?" is a terrific rejoinder, sonny.

And, as keen-eyed readers know, I'm from Indiana, which means that it's utterly immaterial to me whether hands-free is more safe, as safe, or less safe than holding the fucker to your ear while attempting to lurch your way through a 90º turn in the same direction, because The World's Third Worst State Legislature™ won't even ban those. (Although, in a nod to a disastrous multi-fatality summer for suburban teenaged drivers last year it did ban their use for people too young to vote.) Which is particularly interesting for anyone old enough to remember the Analog Days of Yore, and Hoosier enough to remember the efforts to ban the Walkman, on grounds that some theoretical boogier would be lost in his Race music and fail to hear the 200 decibel firetruck behind him. Cynics might note that the Walkman was a device of pure hedonism, while the cell phone gets to hide under the rubric of Business. And quite possibly legitimately so, since its public use--say the woman explaining, at a volume normally reserved for communicating with the elderly, the vicissitudes of scheduling her upcoming Pap smear to the person at the other end of the connection, the cashier, the bagger, myself, and the two other people in the checkout line with us--she is not apocryphal, Reader! She's typical!--is highly suggestive of what one imagines most Americans do at work all day.

Sure, I'm old, but I suspect it's the mere wearing-down process, and not some organic mellowing on the way to the compost pile, which has eased the homicidal fantasies such behavior used to engender. I do think that I have the moral obligation to mention that should I keep my faculties in spite of it all for another decade or so the prospect of Life in prison will begin to lose some of its terror, and the equation might be reworked. On a more positive note, you Kids out there might want to consider that strangling this sort of thing in its crib, though it require something approaching attention to real life, vigilance, even, will yet pay dividends in the long run. If you live that long.


StringonaStick said...

Cell phones; hate 'em. Occassionally useful, mine's always off and I never use it while driving. Total weirdo, I know.

I was applying for a job yesterday, and the owner was shocked, shocked I tell you when I requested a phone book to lookup a number. Their office only uses on-line lookups, and her next question was "do you really still use phone books at your home?" like it was some sort of sin or sign of incompetance to not have a computer constantly on in order to look up phone numbers. And that, my friends, is why the US uses more energy per capita of any country in the world...

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Talking on the phone while driving causes accidents? Hell, talking on the phone while at MY DESK does also, if my blood pressure is an indicator.

I tossed our home phone books a few months back, without telling anyone. Nobody's noticed yet. But the damn phone company keeps bringing 'em.

James Stripes said...

My state has banned cell phone use while driving, but we still have fast food drive-throughs. Alas, they won't ticket you for yakking on the phone while shifting gears unless you either get in an accident or have a taillight out (or generally look suspicious enough to pull over for other matters).

The problem on our roads, whether scheduling a doctor's visit, or preparing one through the ingestion of Ronald the clown's poisons, mimics the problem in the voting booth. Many folks just don't pay attention to what they are doing. They spoil it for the rest of us.

Of course, I can talk on the phone with one hand, eat a burger with the other, find a way to shift gears while violating such traffic laws as the speed limit, and still drive with less danger to the public safety than the average driver in my city. But that's because of two critical factors:

1) I'm looking at the road in front of me, nay in front of the car I'm tailgating so that I can reasonably predict when it will stop.

2) I'm a regular reader of Bats Left, Throws Right and hence a little more perceptive than the average bear.

Anonymous said...

A few weeks ago I saw a woman eating a mango, talking on the phone and driving simultaneously.

I didn't know whether to run her off the road or give her some kind of McArthur grant.


John said...

Shorter Doghouse:

"Talking on the cell while driving is dangerous.

"The Bush administration sat on that fact.

"Duh and Duh. And fuck you, while you're at it."

And you're STILL the best writer on the interblogs.

R. Porrofatto said...

Wanna bet the woman braying to the world about her Pap smear thinks the Census is an invasion of privacy?

I'm amazed at what people are willing to have overheard in public these days.

scott said...

I sorta lost the bubble after the term "Internet Dumbassery" but the entire post was worth it just for that.

Bill In OH said...

I read about the study in the NYT (I think). My favorite part was (paraphrasing) that everyone knows that people drive like shit when they're talking on the phone AND everyone thinks that they're the only exception to the rule. If that isn't a microcosm of 21st C America, I don't know what is.

As far as banning McD's drive-thrus is concerned, if it shuts up dumbasses on the intertubes I'm all for it.

Oh, and what John said.

Morgan P. said...

"Fer chrissakes: no one could possibly have ever imagined that talking on the phone while driving was anything other than an unconscionable hazard to everyone else sharing Your Road."

Bravo, that was my thought exactly when I heard about this story! Like long-term smokers who sued the tobacco companies claiming that they didn't know cigarettes were bad for them. Seriously? You didn't notice the burning feeling in your throat, the coughing, the phlegm build-up, the shortness of breath? LIAR!