Several states have passed laws prohibiting text messaging while driving and talking on your cellphone while driving without a hands-free device.
I bought my first cellphone in August 2006. Then when I replaced my dial-up WebTV unit with a broadband MSNTV2 unit for my online access in July 2007, I dropped my landline entirely. My cellphone is now my only phone.
So you can imagine my reaction upon hearing that state lawmakers across the country finally were “taking action” and passing this tough legislation.
I was outraged.
The nation’s cellphone industry obviously has state legislatures wrapped around its little finger or in its hip pocket or under its thumb or whatever anatomical metaphor you choose.
I guess public safety took a backseat to the cellphone companies’ big money, lavish parties, liberal calling plans and friendly “customer service representatives.”
If lawmakers really want to keep the public safe from cellphones, they won’t stop at prohibiting their use while driving. (Actually, you’re still allowed to use them while driving as long as you use a hands free device, which is baffling considering its the conversation and not the phone that provides the distraction.)
No, if lawmakers really were concerned about public safety they would prohibit people from using cellphones while walking, waiting in lines, sitting in coffee shops, or using the rest room. Especially while using the rest room.
Some might say that I’m being an “extremist” or a “hard-liner” or “not looking at all sides of the issue” to which I say: I don’t care.
I’m not alone. Americans are angry. We are very angry. We have not been this angry since that lame final episode of Seinfeld.
We’re angry that we have to avoid people on sidewalks and in shopping malls who are too busy talking on their cellphones to watch where they are going.
I know these people are annoying because on occasion I’ve been one of them, usually refilling my prepaid minutes while walking to the coffee shop. (Fortunately, I haven’t had any “mishaps” yet.)
We’re angry that it’s now the DRIVERS who have to watch out for the PEDESTRIANS who are getting instructions from the Mother Ship on their cellphones to walk blindly out into traffic.
We’re angry that have to listen to other people’s conversations, especially since we usually only hear one side.
Actually it’s often worse when we can hear both sides because that means the volume is up really loud.
I recently endured a guy in my coffee shop SHOUTING into his computer to communicate with the guy on the other end. But the worst part was I also could hear the other guy shouting back into his computer.
We’re angry that we turn to speak to someone because they begin talking with nobody there only to notice they are talking into a cellphone receiver, particularly in a rest room. Especially in a rest room.
We’re angry that businesses have to put up signs telling people to do things that their parents should have taught them, such as “Please Finish Your Cellphone Conversation Before Approaching The Counter.”
I read recently about a couple who decided to produce those signs as a side business. They received so many orders, they had to quit their jobs and do it full time.
We’re angry that baseball is considering instant replay. Well, some of us are but that’s another column.
No, the time for compromise has passed. It’s time to take back our sidewalks and waiting lines and coffee shops from the hordes of electronically tethered zombies.
If state legislatures really want to keep the public safe (and sane as well), it will enact the following laws during the next legislative session.
The Cellphone Abuse Reform Act of 2010 should include the following:
* Anyone talking on their cellphone while waiting in line goes to the back of the line. Immediately. If they are at the counter ready to order and either answer a call or continue talking, they go to the back of the line AND let two new people go in front of them.
* Anyone crossing the street while talking on their cellphone retakes the Department of Licensing’s driver license road test.
* Anyone talking too long or too loud in a coffee shop or similar establishment rides the “It’s A Small World” attraction at Disneyland for one hour with numerous small children who know the song by heart.
No “hands free devices.” No speakerphones. No headsets. No Bluetooth or similar technological superhero appearing at the last minute to save our precious “personal communication devices.”
Since to be effective, justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done, these punishments will be very swift and very public. The entire adult population will be authorized to enforce the new laws.
Oh yeah, and as for the appeal process, there will be none. You’re guilty. You and everyone around you knows it.
Once these reforms have been in place for a few months, people will begin to get the idea and we can return to the saner, calmer days before pagers and cellphones. It will indeed be a brave new world.
The states could become the national leader in cellphone abuse reform ahead of the federal government as they have on many other important issues. We could create a “groundswell” across the country pushing for national cellphone abuse reform laws.
But we’d still invite the cellphone lobbyists to our events. They really know how to party.