I am going to admit to something no one else will. I can’t drive and talk on the phone at the same time. Unfortunately, neither can anyone else; including, probably, you. Not the Asian woman driving 35 mph in a 65 mph zone, waving her hands and beating her steering wheel as we all zoomed by her on both sides. Not my aunt who calmly told her caller, “I have to hang up now so I can call the police. I just rear ended someone. Oops.” And certainly not my brother-in-law as his employee explained why both the fire department and the plumber had to be called to his store that afternoon. Driving 25 miles down one road to get home, he had to pull over at the end of his heated cell phone conversation because he had no idea where the hell he was.
Even the most efficient multi-taskers among us just aren’t wired to do two things at the same time when both tasks require full functioning of the same side of our brain. And it’s not just driving and using a cell phone. I am physically and mentally incapable of combining many tasks. I can’t have more than two drinks and keep my mouth shut. I can’t see stupid and not laugh. I can’t argue without being right. I also can’t drive while I’m eating, painting my nails or changing my clothes – all things people do while they’re supposed to be driving. Mostly, I can’t talk on the phone while I’m driving because I need both sides of my brain to stay out of the way of the 98% of the people on the road who can’t either and do anyway.
I can be a somewhat forgetful serial-optimist, however. Even the most dimwitted among us are seemingly able to drive and talk without serious mishap most of the time. So I tried it again the other night. I was on my way home and realized I had forgotten to call my daughter to see if she wanted me to drop by with a coffee. She was speed dial #2. I could find that button without looking. “Please enter your password.” Whoops, dialed my voicemail. “You have reached…” my office. We were closed and she wouldn’t be there. I finally found #2, but my timing was off. I was either holding the button down too long or not long enough. It took six tries – one less than dialing the whole number. She picked up the phone. And laughed. She knows I can’t talk and drive.
“Why am I in the left lane?” I greeted her hello. I didn’t want to turn left. So I turned left into the left lane so I could turn around. I had forgotten, of course, I was in the great state of one-way streets. I could see the “no left turn” signs all the way to the end of the road I was on. Then my windshield started to steam up. Or maybe it was me. It was raining. I turned on the heat. The windshield got foggier. Now I couldn’t see in front of me at all. Luckily, I was only going 7 mph now. I checked the lane to my right. It was, of course, already occupied with a line of people talking and driving. Finally, thanks to an inexpert parallel parker blocking traffic, I got into the right lane, just in time to screech to a stop at the red light I almost didn’t see. I did see the police officer though. He was in the left lane so I had a clear view of his unsmiling face over the edge of my phone. Did I mention it was raining?
I’m giving my daughter a play by play, not to make her laugh, which she was, but so I could better concentrate on what I was supposed to be doing. Obviously, that wasn’t really working very well. So I told her I’d park the car and call her from home. She didn’t want a coffee; a good thing since I was now on the other side of town and way past Dunkin Donuts. Who needed coffee?
I called her back, had a drink and laughed while arguing I was right. I can drive and talk on the phone at the same time. But I shouldn’t.