Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Random Rant

To frame the rant properly, let me first say that I don't particularly care for talking on phones in general. I get antsy and distracted and am just generally, for whatever reason, uncomfortable having conversations on the phone. That being said, yes, I do own a cell phone, for the convenience of the thing (I'll be late honey, do we need milk?, did you give the kid her medicine, and so on), but don't talk on it at length much at all.

So my fierce reaction to the fierce reaction that many have to cell phone-talkers shouldn't be taken as fiercely partisan. I don't love my cell phone, and I can pretty easily imagine living without it, thank you very much. But the anti-cell phone jihads some folks can get on just rub me the wrong way. For example--let's take the whole driving thing. I know, I'm in the minority here. But I have a very hard time believing that holding a cell phone and talking while driving is any more dangerous than, say, drinking coffee and driving. And yet I seriously doubt how many of those who would call cell phone talking/driving unconsciousably dangerous would say the same for coffee drinking, or hamburger-eating--or who don't do similar things in the car themselves. I find the laws against talking on a cell and driving, honestly, very silly. It's already illegal to drive unsafely or erratically. And I'd much rather see law enforcement focused on pulling over those driving badly (weaving in and out of lanes, speeding, etc.) than on those who are chatting on a cell but driving just fine.

But my favorite argument against cell phone talking and driving, even with hands-free sets, is that it's distracting. There's this idea that talking on a cell phone is inherently dangerous, even with both hands on the wheel. Now, is anyone, anywhere, advocating that drivers with passengers not speak to them? How is it any different for me to talk to my wife, who is sitting in the passenger seat, than for me to talk to her on a cell?

A lot of the cell-related stuff that angers people strikes me as being, well, irrational--almost prejudiced, although how a prejudice against cell phones was created in the first place is beyond me. Example - put many a person at a table in a restaurant or on a train next to someone talking in a conversational voice on a cell phone and they'll be pissed--incensed at the remarkable rudeness of their fellow man. Put that same person at a table or on a train next to a couple talking in a conversational voice and everything is fine. How is the one different from the other? How come it's rude for me to carry on a conversation on a cell but not with a human being? Or take how some cell phone talkers are excoriated in some quarters for chatting on a phone while conducting business with a cashier. How rude! (goes the cry). Where's the human connection, the pleasantry, the societal glue, without which anarchy will surely follow? But if that same person, while being rung up, is talking to a friend who is there in the flesh--no one seems to mind. No cries of horror.

I simply don't get it. I don't get what makes talking on a cell phone, in and of itself, rude, or dangerous, or a sign of Armageddon. I just don't.

Can anyone supply some enlightenment?

Until Whenever


Roger Owen Green said...

As someone who was nearly hit last week by someone with a (handheld) cell phone while I was crossing the street at an intersection, I can aonly recommend the recent news sdtories that LOTS of things that drivers do, besides using a cell phone, take away from their concentration.

Legislating against drinking coffee or putting in a CD while driving, at least the latter of which is demonstably a pretty dangerouis things to do while driving (ecent studies suggest) are not likely something that is legislatable. The cell phone is (at least in NYS). And FWIW, I'm in favor.

Now, whether the hands-free cells are as dangerous, I believe not. They're no more dangerous than talking to someone in the car, I'd think, maybe less so, for one wouldn't be inclined to want to make eye contact.

Tosy And Cosh said...

I guess I don't see what makes, or should make, legislating cell phone tralking while driving any different than legislating against coffee drinking. Both are, to me, unnecessary and intrusive invasions of privacy by the government.