The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Is that call all that important?

I like to refer you readers... the good ones... the ones who pay attention... the incredibly shrinking few who have not abandoned this blog (yet).. to articles someone else has written. First, because it proves that I can read and recognize talent by others and, second, I don't have to write as much to fill in a post.

So, let me direct you to the following...

A Results-Free Cell Phone Law by Debra J. Saunders

Last week, an insurance industry report found that bans on using hand-held cell-phones while driving in California, New York, Washington, D.C. and Connecticut did not reduce the number of car crashes. To the contrary, crashes went up in Connecticut and New York, and slightly in California, after the bans took effect.

Ms Saunders makes a good point in her column. Why pass a law that is difficult to enforce and may not have any real effect on the problem it is supposed to address? Because, my friends, it might help and, even if it doesn't, we'll all feel better, won't we? But she overlooks another point. One that I think is important, one that says something about people and dependency.

I can't drive and talk on a cell phone. It scares the bejeezus out of me to even try. I am not a bad driver, in spite of what Faye might tell you. But I do realize that I am not able to give my full attention to the task at hand if one of my hands is wrapped around an active cell phone.

I had OnStar active in my car, which gave me hands-free calling (at an excessive price), but that didn't help. What happened was a form of tunnel vision during the calls. My mental focus was on the dynamics of the call conversation and not the traffic around me. I stayed in my lane only because I was no longer driving the 20 year old clunker with the bad front-end that was all I could afford at one time.

So, being nominally sane and mostly rational, I do not drive and phone. I pull over. I make the call before starting out. Or have my passenger (assuming I have one) do it. Or I do not make the call at all.

I am quite anti-cell phone, I suppose. I believe we can easily do with out them. But, then, many might call me a curmudgeon... or worse. I do not require constant contact with others. I come from an era where no one had cell phones. In fact, some had no phone at all. And the ones that did have them were limited in mobility by the length of the cord between phone and wall and handset and phone base. You could not even unplug the phone and move it to another room. It was hard-wired to the wall.

More than a decade went by before we had phone jacks which allowed us to decide where we wanted the phone to be, what room and where in that room. Another decade before we were freed from wires and could walk around our houses, even outside within limits, and still chat on the phone.

We went hours without being reachable when we left our homes. And we survived. Even prospered. We ate in restaurants and heard both sides of a conversation at the next table. If we heard that... because people lowered their voices so that others would not overhear (or be disturbed in their dining). And life was not unbearable.

A cell phone is a wonderful thing. It allows us to contact help when we need it. I first bought one so Faye could call for assistance if she had car trouble when driving home from work at night (she did taxes and sometimes did not get home until 10). As cell phones proliferated, those pay phones (which seemed to be in the worst places and often out of order) became more rare. Parents got cell phones for their teenagers for much the same reasons as I got one for Faye.

Usage grew and features proliferated and we quickly became dependent on these devices. I say "we" in the grand scale. I am not. Dependent, that is. I use a GoPhone, a pay as you go type cell phone where you purchase minutes. I buy 100 minutes for a year and have used less than 20 in the last 8 or 9 months.

And, somehow, I do not feel all alone and without contact. I live without an electronic leash. I feel free.

I leave it to you, dear readers, have cell phones enriched or diminished our lives?


Bagman and Butler said...

I read your blogs all the time, and carefully. And I think this one is particularly important. Furthermore, I want to say...

Sorry, got to take this call. Later.

Gregory said...

good comment bagman,

hmmmmmm.... enrich or diminished... besides the fact that it looks like a star trek communicator, I guess it hasn't changed that much of my life. I can skip finding a pay phone... that in itself is worth the cost of the phone... I rarely get phone calls, so the calls that I want to get are even more rare than that. I'm not real good at the multitasking so I to prefer to stay off the phone when driving.... I know people that read and send text messages while driving, way too complicated for me.

Paul E. Giroux said...

I bought an iPhone in April 2009 because my wife said I deserved it .... good for me. My total Call time is 36 hrs, don't know if that is good or bad. I get email on it but wait until I am at my desktop to answer them. I have a "Hang up and Drive" sticker on the back windshield for my truck, so no I don't drive and talk. Would I be without any type of cell phone? No, I like the idea of having it near me at all times, even if I don't average one call a day. The only thing missing is 3G coverage in my area of Florida .... r u listening AT&T

Steven said...

They're bringing us (closer? already there?) to the point of all the world's information available to us at all times. I'm not the average person, but I almost never talk on the wife calls if she has to, and my mom calls sometimes, and that's about 95% of my conversations. My phone, though, has to be with me at all times. Too much goes on in my head to remember it all - it's my pda, my secretary, my notepad, my encyclopedia. Margaritarguments generally turn into a quick internet search and the topic can turn to a new controversy or (gasp) just conversation. My phone is my gps for most purposes (don't usually have the need to use the real one), my restaurant locator, gets me to the new dentist when all I know is his last name, lets me find businesses or addresses I'm looking for. We're not to the ST:TNG point yet of "computer! play me <random symphony>!", but my phone does have a ton of music on's fulfilling multiple purposes while I'm bored or exercising or... We have two really nice cameras, one of which records mediocre video...which do us no good most of the time. My phone records mediocre pictures and videos and is always with me...the random shots of random things will trigger memories long after I would have otherwise forgotten them. Random videos of doing uninteresting things will become interesting in a decade or two. Texting is a pretty useful form of communication when most of your peers use it. My phone turns sideways into a handheld video game device (not a feature i use, really, but still more convergence).

I'm pushing 30 and could barely afford my first cell phone that I got...fairly different than the generation born with cell phones...but they're a pretty integral part of my life. Yeah I could live without them (and lots of things), but I would rather not. The quality of my life has improved through technology.

Oh and I don't drive and talk, generally, even if i need to...but that's mainly because we only drive manuals. I'll talk on the freeway and be fine. I just read a book which didn't talk about cell phones and driving, specifically (I think it was too old), but was talking about differences between male and female brains, and how women see better (men have tunnel vision), are able to concentrate on more than one thing at a time, and are better drivers, among lots of other topics. Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps

andreaskluth said...

The obvious logical problem with that alleged revelation (ie, that a ban on calls with HAND-HELD cellphones did not help) is this:

it's not the hand-holding that distracts the driver. It's the cognitive effect of having to pay attention to the words of a person who is far away, outside the car, while still staying aware of the hundreds of risks on the road and sidewalk.

Mental focus, not hand availability.

So they should ban (or block) the connectivity. Then let people hold in their hands whatever they wish.

Douglas said...

The cell phone importance seems a generational thing. With a bit of commercial necessity tossed in. Based upon these comments.

Andreas seems to have an interesting idea about controlling misuse while driving.

I am not a big fan of legislating fixes for human nature (but I accept that some is needed) but lean toward education instead until the population adapts to the new technology.

I think we can learn to meld the nearby with the remote and function adequately, Andreas. But it is not easy and I am an Old Dog.