Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Fear in the Cage
I rode away from my house this morning for no particular reason with no particular destination in mind. It was sunny and the 20 degree Fahrenheit temperature was bracing. The Vespa moved easily up the hill and before long I was riding along Brush Valley Road. Something felt different, I was riding more fluidly and the scooter, the road and I seemed perfectly in tune. It’s a lovely feeling.
I stopped to make this photograph and just take in the world. It was nice to just be out in it. No cars or trucks, just me. As I rode towards town I started seeing other vehicles and began to notice how many people were talking on cell phones. I had read Dan Bateman’s post on Musings of an Intrepid Commuter about this subject and it got me thinking. Before I go on I need to confess that I talk on the phone while driving. And I’ll also admit that I believe that I can handle it. After all, I’m different than everyone else, I’m a better driver, I’m careful, blah, blah, blah. I know this is a rationalization to feel better about talking on the phone knowing how dangerous it is.
I thought about this while riding into town. I stopped at a traffic light and watched five cars pass in front of me. Four were on the phone. I saw more pass while I parked the scooter at the library. I saw people walking down the sidewalk talking on the phone and one person answered a particularly loud and annoying cellphone in the library. I’ve been chewing on this all day. What is going on with cellphones? How did we ever live without them?
I carry a phone with me while I ride but never think of using it while riding. When I “need” to use it I pull over. Works fine. But for some reason the idea of pulling over while driving is especially repugnant. There is a genetically coded imperative that whispers in my head to never let anything interfere with the forward motion of the cage.
Examining the “need” to use a cell phone reveals much of the root of this issue. Their isn’t much need. When I think of the times I talk on the phone while driving it is either because someone has called me, or I’m in too big a hurry to stop to call, or I’m bored. Let’s say the first two are important---the EMT is calling to find out a family member’s blood type and the second is because I’m rushing to pick someone up and I’m late and I want them to know I am on the way. Justifiable uses but not real frequent. If that was all cell phones were ever being used for there really wouldn’t be much of an issue. But that last one – boredom – that’s where the cell phone really shines.
I think boredom masks fear. Fear of being alone. People can’t stand to hear the voice in their head and they’ll go to great lengths to avoid it. The cell phone is just one of the many devices that can be deployed to make sure we don’t have to face ourselves. While riding I am never bored. Another benefit of two-wheeled adventure, even if merely commuting.
I’ve made a decision to not use the cell phone while driving. I want to afford others the same courtesy I expect from them when I am riding.