by Roger White
Normally, I’m not one to send out hearty huzzahs to governmental entities for actions they’ve taken, and this is likely because governmental entities these days rarely take any action at all (unless it involves evasive action from pursuing police cars, gaggles of reporters, or issues of real import). But I must say that I feel a robust huzzah coming on for the gallant move the Austin City Council made in August. The council types put their pointed noggins together and approved an ordinance banning cellphone use while driving within the Weird City Limits. So here goes. Let’s hear it: Huzzah!
Carl, I didn’t see you huzzah-ing.
I imagine that this new law, which goes into effect January 1, 2015, will be called by some shorthand name like the DWP law. Driving While Phoning. Or maybe DWT—Driving While Texting. Or we could simply stick with the term DWI and call it Driving While Intexticated. Regardless, label me a cappy hamper. It’s about time we put these handheld monsters in their place. I mean, crikey, time was when you saw a car weaving all over the road and sideswiping lampposts it was usually 2:30 in the morning and the driver had a handful of cheap hooch. Now, any time of day or night you can easily spy a meandering motorist, but these days he’s got his head down, engrossed in his handful of high-tech hosannas. Holy high-speed highjinks!
Alas, too, in the olden days, the term “distracted driving” meant that a guy was accidentally steering onto the sidewalk on Guadalupe Street because he was ogling a crowd of college coeds walking down the drag. Nowadays, it usually means somebody put his Dodge in a ditch because he was watching a Vietnamese potbellied pig play the harpsichord on Youtube. It’s insanity, man.
So I not only applaud the council for standing up to the mobile madness, I say we take it a few steps further. I vote we enact stiff fines, public shaming rituals, and/or jail time for the following:
- WWT: Walking While Texting
- WMWT: Watching a Movie While Texting
- IYPWT: Ignoring Your Parents While Texting
And, of course:
- CWRLPWT: Conversing With a Real Live Person While Texting
You’ve surely seen the videos out there of those unfortunate saps who’ve strolled into mall fountains or off sheer cliffs because of their single-minded attention to their devices. And I suppose some of the yahoos in these videos were actually watching videos of other yahoos walking into fountains or off cliffs. Gads. It’s a glimpse of infinity—the fractal geometry of the absurd. Don’t you see? Where was I?
Oh. Get this. The Chinese, recognizing the inherent dangers of WWT, have actually devised an urban solution. The city of Chongqing has decided to parse its sidewalks into normal human walking lanes and cellphone user lanes. Apparently, the cellphone lanes have warnings painted onto the pavement about such things as the fact that the sidewalk is ending soon, there’s a naked lady walking right next to you, and your neck could stay permanently frozen in that position if you don’t stop gawking at your phone.
I would guess that such walking lanes might need rumble strips or warning buzzers for the hardcore cellphone addicts who refuse to tear themselves away. Such measures may have saved the tourist in Melbourne, Australia, who walked right off a pier into the frigid waters of Port Phillip Bay recently. According to news reports, the woman thrashed about in the sea for about 20 minutes before being rescued. “There will be no need for a lost property report as the woman kept hold of her mobile phone throughout the entire ordeal,” said a local police officer. The woman’s child and two dogs, unfortunately, were never found. OK, I made that part up.
So, anyhow, here’s to our intrepid city council for taking a swipe at all the app-addled addicts out there. I’m with ya, pointy-noggin council types. Is it so hard for people to PUT THE PHONE DOWN? My hope is that once we move into the second phase of our fair burg’s sanctions—the laws against WWT, WMWT, and the like—that eventually we’ll develop edicts against the more grievous mobile device offenses. Such as SWT. You know. Nudge, nudge.
Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.