July 2, 2003

Cell-Phone Drivers

Who are the cell phone drivers in your neighborhood? A field guide.

Dialing Guy

You wonder why that SUV is weaving and as you pull alongside, you see Dialing Guy. He's got the phone against the steering wheel and he's hunting and pecking on the buttons. He thinks that looking at the phone on his steering wheel is the same thing as looking at the road.

Confused Woman

I don't know what this woman's conversation is about, but she has the strangest expression on her face. A cross between "What is that awful smell" and "Get the hanky, I'm about to sneeze" her countenance conveys that she is utterly lost in a hostile and bewildering world where people call you up in the middle of a peaceful drive to explain differential equations, quote James Joyce, and ask you what the capital of Bali* is.

Oblivious Lass

You can see her, but she doesn't see you. The glazed look in her eye, coupled with the small device pressed to her ear spell trouble for you if you're anywhere within her car's fuel tank blast radius. Get away quickly, if you can.

Angry Man

Identified by his red face and wild gesticulations, Angry Man will pound the steering wheel one moment and cut you off the next. The target of his rage is safely situated miles away (probably in a concrete-reinforced bunker). Through the magic of telecommunications, you are now the nearest available focal point for his cathartic anti-personal behavior.

Slow-Driving Lady

Like the drunk driver who carefully fights to stay on the road yard by yard, Slow-Driving Lady knows her limitations and will not exceed 1/3 of the speed limit. However, as she is a close relative of Oblivious Lass, she may sail through stop signs and traffic lights in the belief that her slow speed offers magical protection against harm.

Bored Dude

Bored Dude can't keep his mind on his conversation, it's so boring. But his mind isn't on his driving, either. Where is it? The answer to that question is unknown, but Bored Dude can't be bothered. When he cuts you off, it's not out of spite -- he's just trying to make both your days more exciting. And, if he happens to be killed in a collision, that just releases him from this boring existence.

Laughing Fellow

You're stuck in traffic. You're miserable. Everybody around you is miserable. Except for one man. Laughing Fellow is laughing heartily, passing the time listening to a stand-up routine, some improv, or A Midsummer Night's Dream. Or possibly some Oscar Wilde -- we're not completely sure. But whatever it is, it irks the heck out of you, especially because he is in a quicker-moving lane! On the rare occasion he is not in the quicker-moving lane, he quickly juts out into yours, right in front of you. With a hearty guffaw, he waves "thank you." At least he's polite.

Ballsy Lad

Ballsy Lad would probably be driving like this even if he wasn't on the phone. He's got one hand at the top of the steering wheel, one hand on his phone, and is leaning forward, into the dashboard. Why? Because as he runs the red light he imagines that leaning forward gets him over the line sooner, and somehow more legally. He has blinders on, because if he can't see you he doesn't have to acknowledge your existence.

The Immovable Object

This is, perhaps, the least dangerous of the crew. Man or woman, Immovable Object has made a sincere attempt to get out of the way to make or take a phone call. However, on occasion, immovable object is situated in such a way as to cause more trouble than it solves. People are either backed up trying to get past immovable object (rubbernecking as they go by out of curiosity and concern) or they are swerving into another traffic lane. Remember, the river flows around the immovable object, not through it.

Workin' Stiff

Workin' Stiff is an unabashed cell-phone user and moderately slow driver. He knows he's using the cell phone, knows he's impaired, but doesn't care because he's got an excuse. He's working. It's his job. And for that, it's worth putting his and your life in danger. Deal with it! The look on hs face says it all: at least I'm important enough that I have to be on the phone while I'm driving. You peon!

(* It's Denpasar)

Posted by James at July 2, 2003 10:11 AM
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Damn the people who cannot multitask but refuse to acknowledge it as they give the rest of us a bad name. Pity the poor driver coming the other way when these people are talking on the phone, tuning the radio, reaching for a pacifier or simply noticing a car on the side of the road.

We'll soon have laws against using anything but hands free phones and that will help some. But sadly it won't eliminate the problem.

Posted by: Mike at July 2, 2003 10:27 AM

Unlike other tasks one might do whilst driving, holding a conversation on the phone requires brain power that should be used on the task at hand--driving. One must conjure up the image of the person talking as well as the scene created, and then be an active participant in the discussion.

I'm all for banning phoning while driving. This will free up people's minds to--get ready--drive! I'm waiting for the return of: stopping at stop signs; signaling for turns; moving when the light turns green; and other driving rules that are often forgotten about in the heat of the *important* phone conversation.

Next: special "cell phone" cars on trains where you will have to sit if you must use your phone. Leave the rest of us in peace, blissfully ignorant of your pizza order, hysterectomy, fight with your spouse, plans for tomorrow's big meeting at the office, and "ring tone" based losely on a piece of classical music you could not possibly hope to identify or appreciate. Philistines.

Posted by: Patti M. at July 7, 2003 12:24 PM

By the way, your descriptions are *really* funny! I laughed and laughed last week when I read this, and I tried to post my appreciation, but you must've had the site down for work.

Good stuff!

Posted by: Patti M. at July 7, 2003 12:27 PM

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