Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Oh, those cell phones

The weather people tell us our weather should be on the rather nice side today with the heat and humidity returning briefly tomorrow followed by a real drop in those temperatures. We did get some rain, quite a lot actually, yesterday afternoon, but the day wasn't too bad for the most part.

Now I have to take this old body and all the humidity, or is dew point the more "in" word these days?, and see how the recent weather translates into activity at my senior fitness session. I'm going there with some mixed emotions; but if the last session is any indication, all will be just fine.

I have had a cell phone for several years, as have many people. I had no use for one until I had my health episodes back in 2001 when our family decided to get one “just in case” we have an emergency. I picked up a family plan for the three of us who live in Maine. None of us uses the phones very often. In fact, the family plan I bought gave us just 300 minutes a month to split among us. My guess would be we haven’t used a total of 300 minutes since we first signed up. Heavy phone users we are not.

Shortly after we got the phones, I was heading from my home to Gator Daughter’s home. I wanted to give the phone a try so shortly after getting on the Scarborough Connector to I-295, I called her. We had a nice conversation but I remember absolutely nothing of the ride. I don’t remember leaving the Connector for the main highway. I have no recollection of leaving the highway on the Washington Avenue exit ramp. I don’t remember turning into GD’s driveway. I shut down the phone after I had arrived and sat there for a few moments wondering, “How did I get here?” I was, apparently, a distracted driver and could have put many people in jeopardy.

Although I always have my phone with me when I’m away from home, since that day early in my having one I have never talked on it while my car is moving. Whenever one of those very few times comes I need to make a call, the car is parked on the side of the road or in a parking lot. The phone is only on when I’m initiating a call so I never received an incoming one. In fact, I think only two people outside my family even know the number.

There’s a control light at the intersection where I enter the main road and when the light turns green, no one moves until all main traffic has come to a halt. I’ve counted as many as 5 or 6 cars roaring through after their light has turned red. Almost all have a telephone coming out of their ear. Riding down any road always amazes me as I observe the number of cars with cell phones in use.

I’d like to be able to say they’re all teenagers, or women, or old guys like me, or any other stereotype. That’s not possible as cell phone use in cars seems to be a universal phenomenon. Digressing just a bit, it also seems that cell phone usage dominates just about everywhere there are humans. Walking down the street, restaurants, super markets, department stores, you name it; someone will be busy yakking on a cell phone totally ignoring anyone else around. How in the world did we ever get along before these extremely expensive toys became so necessary?

One hasn’t become a Gator family necessity. As I said before, ours are only turned on to make a quickie call. One thing Gator Wife and I have grown accustomed to doing is making a 30 second call if our plans change or one of us will be late home. That’s particularly important because of my health issues. It’s going to be a long time before that original 300 minutes gets used.

There’s a purpose behind all this, but it only refers to drivers. Beginning next month Maine’s new distracted driver law goes into effect. The law says that anyone who is distracted by any device or activity in a moving vehicle may be summoned to court for driving while distracted.

As best as I can tell, the new law doesn’t specifically prohibit the use of cell phones, but anyone who does could be cited by the police, especially if that person is involved in a dangerous driving situation, involved in an accident while distracted, or commits another traffic crime.

It’ll be interesting to see how the police enforce this new law. If you’d like to read it, it can be found on the State of Maine website. Search for Public Law, Chapter 446 LD 6.


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