I commute to my workplace. Because I commute I know that — like the fairy tale children who ventured into the dark forest even though their nanny told them not to and then they were devoured by demons — drivers should not operate cell phones. It’s distracting and dangerous. And Werner Herzog will make a documentary about you.
But humans are reckless and adaptable, and sometimes the dark forest entices with the promise of risk. Which is why I sometimes plug in ear buds and converse hands free while driving. Not entirely hands free, since I must activate the voice dialing, but that’s comparable to sipping a coffee. While changing lanes. And adjusting the radio volume.
Once you’re on hands free a pleasant lady purrs, “Say a command”, and you ask her to call so-and-so, and the phone rings after a few seconds and you talk to the windshield. While plugging the power cord. Into the cigarette lighter. While changing lanes….
But, here’s the thing: the voice activated, ‘thingy’ doesn’t always work. You tell the pleasant lady “Call” and she pauses like a startled clerk and says “Please try again”. So you say, a little louder, “CALL”. And then she faux-apologizes “I did not understand. Please try again.” And now that you’re truly engaged, you summon all of a daily driver’s rage and yell “CAAAALLLL!” And the pleasant lady says “Cancel. Good bye.”
Now, I’m a man of science (which is to say, I took high school physics) so I assume that the phone has misunderstood me due to road noise. “Call” must sound like “Cancel”, I muse. So I yell, a lot louder, “CALL”. And the same thing happens. Three times.
But then I realize that this is a matter of culture not of science: this is, after all, a Canadian phone. It demands politeness; you yell at this device and it clams up like a government auditor. So I say, gently and calmly, “call”. And the lady says “Which number?” “Home,” I say, coaxingly. There’s a pause and I begin to hear ringing, just as the pleasant lady says, with just a hint of self righteous snark, “Next time, simply say ‘Call home'”. And then I really lose it.
Herzog is right. We should focus on driving and leave the phone calls to when we’re immobile. It’s best to keep the phone in an inaccessible location while driving. Like, for instance, ‘out the window’, which is right where I threw it.