A hypocrite is driven to distraction

I am such a hypocrite. I can’t stand seeing people talking on their cellphones when they are supposed to be operating a motor vehicle.

I am such a hypocrite. I can’t stand seeing people talking on their cellphones when they are supposed to be operating a motor vehicle.

Thing is though, I really like talking on the phone when I’m driving.

I get lots of business-type yakking done, and I get to phone people to tell them I’m late. In fact, I was really hoping for legislation that would ban everybody else except me from driving while cell-phoning.

But now there’s no legislation at all.

Alberta was supposed to be the fifth province to join an increasing trend world-wide to prohibit hand-held cellphone use while driving, but the government recently announced they have decided to “change their minds” (aka ‘break a promise’) in favour of “more study on the issue” (aka ‘keep putting it off and hope it goes away).

But recent statistics show that drivers using phones are four times more likely to get into crashes causing injuries. As far as I can tell they are also 10 times more likely to have a monthly phone bill as large as their mortgage.

True story: one day not long ago, I left the house in my car and a friend called me on my cell to talk about a project we were working on.

After a lively, stimulating conversation I hung up to find myself pulling into the Wal-Mart parking lot.

Two things bothered me about this:

l I had no memory of having just driven half-way across town to Wal-Mart.

l I had left home with every intention to pick up my wife at London Drugs.

It’s a good thing I had my cellphone with me though, because my wife called on her cellphone from the sidewalk in front of London Drugs in inclement weather to ask where on earth I was, and I immediately blamed it on the traffic and assured her that I was on my way.

That’s when I started to think they might be onto something with all this talk of banning phones for drivers.

Over the past month, due to circumstances created, I’m convinced, by mis-aligned planets and a waning and waxing moon, I was on the road more than a long haul trucker on No-Doze medication. In one month, I made 15 separate trips to Edmonton and back, and three round trips to Calgary.

My five-year-old Toyota is beginning to grunt, groan and complain like a senior citizen trying to haul himself out of a Barcalounger.

But what did I learn during those thousands of road-weary “Ks?” I learned that the only thing a driver should do with a cellphone in a vehicle is roll down the window and throw it out.

Here’s one small example: on Hwy 2 early one morning, I noticed a lady beside me on the phone. Her car was hurtling down the damp and foggy highway at a mile a minute (aka a kilometer per gram) and she was deeply engrossed in an animated conversation on her cellphone.

One hand had the phone permanently jammed to her ear, leaving the other hand free to gesticulate wildly and expressively in order to emphasize and supplement her intense blabbing.

It occurred to me, even at that murky early hour, that very few humans have three arms, or even three hands for that matter. Which meant that I logically had to wonder who or what in the name of Saint Christopher was operating the steering wheel!

I also realized that it was not a good thing for her to be weaving sporadically in my direction at high speed whilst chatting away vigorously to an invisible phone buddy. A phone buddy who was probably also busy being a hazard, cellphone-driving with no hands on some other busy highway.

I wasn’t sure if it was safer to zoom ahead of this mobile menace, or drop in behind where she couldn’t run into the back of me when her phone conversation got really intense and she started madly gesturing with the foot that was on her gas peddle.

I stayed within sight of her the entire way to Edmonton, and that driver was still on that same wild and wooly phone call by the time she zigged and zagged her way into the city limits, disappearing into the multitudinous seething depths of the rush hour traffic.

She never did touch the steering wheel for more than a nano-second.

I remember thinking: if she’s lucky, and if we fellow motorists and pedestrians and inanimate objects by the roadside are lucky, that obsessively chatty cellphone diva will eventually hang up and pull into a Wal-Mart somewhere.

Where she’ll look around wonder how she got there, and why she’s not anywhere near where she’s supposed to be.

It was about that time that I reached over, rolled the window down, and threw out my cellphone.

Just kidding. But I did reach over and shut it off. Which, while not as dramatic was just about as traumatic for me.

But I finally realized it’s a whole lot safer than being a cellphone hypocrite.

Harley Hay is a local filmmaker and freelance writer.

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