Published: Apr 28, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Apr 26, 2012 04:36 PM
Driving under the influence
She’s backing out of her parking spot as you’re leaving the Carrboro Harris Teeter lot. Does she see you? You hit your horn. She brakes hard, jolting to a stop, and pulls forward so you can get by. You glare as you pass her. Of course. She’s talking on her phone.Another scene: The light has turned but, not being a New York driver, you wait a polite moment. You do not sit on the horn the second you see green. Her head is down, the driver’s in the car in front of you.You finally tap. “Beep. Beep.” She bolts up, glances at you in her rear view mirror, and accelerates into the intersection. She’s holding something in her right hand. Is it a phone? Yes. She was in the middle of a text. At the next light she’ll add the last words and hit “send” or maybe up ahead on that long straight patch where the traffic always slows at school dismissal time.I confess. She could be me. So could the woman backing out in the HT lot. I talk while driving. I text while driving.When the decision passed to ban cell use while driving in Chapel Hill, my Manhattan-based daughter texted me a humorous “Listen up, woman” message – which I read while driving. Funny. Especially from a woman who spends all day texting and talking to her real estate clients from a car – a taxi and she's in the backseat. The fact is, even though I've texted while driving for years, I always felt unsure about it. I imagine there are responsible people who know when and how to text and talk while driving. It’s just that I am not one of them. I have to admit, once the ban becomes law, I’ll feel better. In fact, I’m weaning myself now. But there are some aspects I don’t understand. It seems I'll still be able to talk to my spouse and to my children. One of the people I chat with most while driving is that daughter in Manhattan. Will our endless banter be legal? Or will only calls like this be permissible? “Do not answer the doorbell. I’ll be home soon.” And what will I be able to discuss with my spouse: “I don’t know where you blue tooth is. Last time I saw it? On the kitchen counter, maybe this morning?” Speaking of husbands, I imagine mine will want some new rules around our house too. The April 16th New Yorker features a cartoon with a man and woman sitting in their living room. The man says to the woman, “If anyone wants me, I’ll be right in front of your face while you’re furiously texting.”My husband gets annoyed when we sit down for a cup of coffee or a cocktail and I’m “furiously texting.”“But I’m almost finished,” I’ll say. “I just have to let this client know about our meeting.”He’ll sigh and wander off to get his own phone. By the time he’s back, I’m finished, ready for conversation – the face-to-face kind – and he’s texting. I also wonder about driving while talking to a passenger. My good friend and I were deep in conversation the other day. She was driving, I was riding shotgun, and had I not called out “red light!” she would have run it.Some day cars will lock into a control strip in the highway allowing a remote controlled driving system to take over, like in the movie Minority Report. They first promised this back at the World’s Fair GM "Futurama" in 1939. But anything like that still seems a long way off, and I can't say I'm sorry. Giving up the phone in the car will sting, but I can do it. I do have my limits, though. The day they outlaw listening to books on CD while driving, is the day I'll have to put my foot down (as it were). But please don’t tell anybody: it’s really not safe.