A faithful reader of this space, among the several faithful readers enjoyed by this space, weighed in on the texting truck driver (see Sept. 27th below) to say I ought to write about the real problem: texting while conversing. Conversational texting may not be as lethal, except in terms of mortally wounded relationships, but it does indeed seem a growing threat to humankind.
We checked with several members of the Under Twenty generation (is there a generational designation for today’s teens and sub-teens?) who assure us they would never be guilty of such a thing but we’re not convinced they’re telling the whole truth. It is the Boomers and Beyonders, though, who have come late to this perpetual connectedness and pose the greater threat. Faithful Reader confessed to having a close personal relation whom she is about to disinherit because he will not stop surreptitiously, perpetually, rudely texting beneath the table while pretending to carry on a conversation. Or sometimes not even bothering to pretend.
In a former life I had a husband — I no longer have this particular husband — who was prone to walk into a room, immediately pick up the remote and click on whatever ball game happened to be in progress. Guests found this disconcerting; wife found it maddening. The message, similar to the message of incessant texting-while -supposedly-conversing is that something afar is infinitely more important than anything at hand.
If you are a reader of this space, you are surely too cultured and polite to commit inappropriate texting. But you are invited to e-mail it to any texting truckers or friends you may have, in the interest of general civility.
The life you save may be your own… or possibly mine. Right now, to be honest about it, I am more interested in mine. And mine is regularly at risk from texting drivers.
Today’s front page story by Matt Richtel in the New York Times, with accompanying photo of large driver of large vehicle, small dog in his lap and intricate computer screen to the right of his steering wheel, raises more fear in me than local jihadidsts and prospective death panels. The latter are abstract &/or untrue, the former is real. And preventable. “We are supposed to pull over,” trucker Kurt Long says blithely, “but nobody does.” Richtel also quotes American Trucking Association spokesman Clayton Boyce as saying that truckers “… are not reading the screen every second.” Why is this somehow not comforting?
I concede that time is critical to drivers of large vehicles. But at some point the public good ought to prevail. Those of us over 60 are admittedly better able to remember when it was possible to live without texting (or even cell-phoning) while driving and thus better able to think it could be possible again, at least on a limited basis. We are also able to remember when it was convenient for some people to drive around very drunk and occasionally kill people, before laws were passed to limit that activity. Driving a big rig while texting may seem more important than driving blotto after a party, but the dead are just as dead. Somebody has got to get the attention of our legislators — somebody not indebted to the very powerful trucking industry lobby — so that new laws are enacted.
Walking, whenever time and public transportation permit, is my mobility of choice. On foot, I regularly notice the drivers who don’t notice me because they are too busy texting or talking on cell phones. Pedestrians learn to do this. But if you’re driving down the highway and a large vehicle is barreling toward you or near you, propelled by a minimally-attentive driver, you don’t stand a chance. And I say, send them to jail.
Beloved members of my immediate circle of family and friends have been known to text while driving. I still say, send them to jail. I’ll come visit.