That railroad engineer whose Philadelphia train derailed last month killing eight people was cleared of any texting or talking on a phone while in charge.
I wish I could say the same about some automobile drivers.
I stroll the streets for exercise, and it’s a jungle out there. Every morning, at least one sleepy driver goes past, using one hand on the wheel and the other hand holding a phone while the motorist drives dull-eyed and lost in thought.
I think it must have something to do with the zombie fad in the movies. Zombies stumble along, coming toward you looking for lunch. (You are lunch.) But at least zombies are paying attention to the walkers and joggers, which is more than some texters.
Sometimes when I’m out for a sidewalk stroll, one of those drivers, lost in texting, blindly turns the corner and flits past me with that look of the undead in her eyes.
Thank goodness I am a natural athlete, a newspaperman like Superman alter ego Clark Kent who is capable of leaping over tall buildings at a single bound.
I do understand the temptation to operate an automobile and finger a smart phone simultaneously. We are all ruled by our curiosity. When I am inside our house and the phone rings, I not only can’t resist answering the call, but I race quickly to the phone.
As a journalist, I don’t want to miss a call. It could be anyone, maybe even the president of the United States contacting me to give me a big story.
Those same impulses apply to me when I am driving. The phone rings and I’m dying to know who it is, but our family doesn’t take phone calls while driving.
When I’m driving and my smart phone rings, I would really rather grab it, slam it up against my ear and find out if this time it really is the president calling.
However, if the traffic is clear, we are permitted to pull over to the curb and stop. Only then can we answer that call, even if the president is never on the line and even if it is some fat-headed huckster trying to sell us some aluminum siding.
You would think that the few seconds it takes to pull over to the curb would be tolerable even for the kind of hysterical people who can’t bring themselves to ignore a phone. After all, most of us began our lives before portable telephones came along. If someone back then was trying to call you and you weren’t home, you wouldn’t even know you had a phone call.
Before that, the catch was that the telephone hadn’t been invented, although farmers would sometimes stand on a knoll and yell greetings to one and all.
Then there were those years back in 1789 when messengers from Europe boarded sailing ships and spent several weeks crossing the ocean. They came to tell an immigrant to this land that his daughter was arrested for running over a pedestrian with an ox cart while gossiping with a neighbor..
It’s galling enough when you are out for a stroll and get run over by a car. It would be twice as galling if the phone call is answered by some shallow, self-centered twit whose wife wants him to drive by the grocery store for another six pack of her favorite beer.
Meanwhile, if you drive by and see me flattened on the street by some frantic phone freak, call my wife and tell her I’ll be late for dinner.
(Has Barack called yet?)
Contact Bill Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501.