Matter of Laugh or Death
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
TIME FOR A PADDED CELL (PHONE)
A year ago I could not have cared less about cell phones. I understood they were marvelous technological inventions, but I really don’t enjoy talking on the phone as it is, so why would I want to be “in touch” no matter where I traveled? For every one time it might come in handy if my car broke down or if I wanted to order a pizza while at the beach (“extra sand on that, please”), I figured there would be eight million other times a telemarketer would call me trying to sell a vacation condo in Florida or the latest Time-Life book series (“‘The History of Cheese,’ a spectacular 32-volume set for the low, low price of only $24.95 per month for the rest of your life—Which credit card would you like to use, Mr. Willdunn?”).
However, all that changed drastically when I got a new sales job last fall which requires me to be behind the wheel of a car for eight or nine hours each day. And during at least five of those hours I have a cell phone pressed against the side of my head.
I am now a big fan of cell phones (especially since my monthly commission check depends on one). But wouldn’t you know it, just as I’m belatedly joining the high-tech communication revolution, there has been a wave of bad news regarding cell phones. An article in a recent issue of Newsweek magazine explored the possible link between cell phone radiation and brain cancer. The magazine’s table of content listed the article with a nice subtle question: “Is Your Cell Phone Killing You?” Well, of course, the answer is no. My cell phone is not killing me. The bridge abutment I’m about to drive into at 80 mph because I’m yakking with a customer and not paying attention to the road is what’s killing me.
According to the Newsweek article, over 100 million Americans now use cell phones. I could have told you that. All 100 million are on Interstate 84 during rush hour each morning, driving 80 mph, yakking with customers, and not paying attention to the road.
Brain cancer isn’t the only worry. An insurance industry study found the risk of having a car accident increases four-fold if the driver is using a cell phone. By comparison, the risk of an accident increases only three-fold if the driver is clipping his toe nails (although the risk jumps to eight-fold if a stray toe nail clipping happens to shoot into his eye, which is why the National Highway Safety Board strongly recommends wearing approved safety goggles when performing toe maintenance procedures while operating a motor vehicle).
I’m not sure I agree with the insurance industry. My problem is not driving unsafely while on the phone, my problems is completely forgetting where I’m driving to while on the phone. I can’t count the number of times I’ve finished a call while cruising down the highway, looked around and said, “Where the heck am I?” and then realized I should have gotten off the Interstate six exits ago. (“Oh well, I’ve always wanted to see St. Louis.”)
Some municipalities have already taken the drastic step of banning cell phone use while driving. If these laws become commonplace across the nation, it will be a disaster. If I have to pull over each time I need to make a call, I’ll never get anywhere. I’ll have to return to the bad old days when salesmen didn’t have phones and had to drive from sun up till sundown conducting all their business face to face.
Local officials cite safety concerns when passing cell phone restrictions. Oh please, what a crock! We know exactly what’s going on here: tawdry political shenanigans. It’s obvious that powerful oil industry lobbyists are bribing politicians to pass these silly laws to force hard-working salesmen such as myself to drive more miles each day, which in turn requires us to purchase more gasoline. As usual, large multi-national conglomerates make obscene profits at the expense of the little guy.
Don’t these people realize what will happen if
salesmen cannot talk on the phone and drive at the same time? It will
stifle economic activity. It will cause countless businesses to go
bankrupt. It may even spark a worldwide depression. At the very least, it
will prevent me from sleeping late on Mondays (in the sales trade it’s
called “doing office work at home while planning the upcoming week”),
and reserving a 1 p.m. tee time on Fridays (again, in the trade it’s
called “entertaining clients,” whether or not any actual clients
happen to be in your foursome).
We have to reach some kind of compromise before this no-phone insanity spreads. I have a proposal: In exchange for being allowed to drive and talk at the same time, I promise to use my cell phone only when absolutely necessary; I promise to hang up if traffic conditions become hazardous; and most of all, I promise never again to talk on the phone and clip my toe nails at the same time. That’s fair enough, isn’t it?
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