Thursday, February 10, 2011

I'm a TAD Sad

Cell Phones . . . just about all of us have them. Some are inexpensive "Go Phones" while others are "Smart Phones" advanced beyond a rudimentary explanation. No matter the version, or the brand, or the features, the connectivity afforded by the technology has become such a necessity in our go-go-go society that it is almost incomprehensible to imagine surviving without them. Sometimes, however, we get so carried away with the ease of usage that we lose sight of the catastrophic consequences when we fail to respect their power and realize that with the freedom provided by the technology comes the responsibility to use the freedom wisely.

A few days ago I was catching up on Facebook posts and came across Your Final Text Message, a video produced in March 2010 by AT&T, warning of the dangers in Texting And Driving (TAD). I watched the video stream and was touched by the message from survivors of texting escapades. Almost all of the victims, though, are no longer around to share their stories. One survivor was a perp/vic, although I'm not sure if bonus points can be awarded for surviving, or taken away for being a perpetrator. That is not meant to be sarcastic or funny. Each one of the victims here lost something precious: life. Each one of the perpetrators lost something precious: peace of mind. In the lone cited incident, the victim will never have his life back in the same manner he had before. Thus, perhaps his life was lost as well.

One of the vignettes featured a teenager who was texting, took his eyes off the road, and slammed into a cyclist, killing him instantly. Being a cyclist, and living with the danger of knowing that my next trek down the highway could be met with the same fate was unsettling. It does not mean I would give up bicycling on the road; yet, it is a very real concern. If it does happen I pray that my death will be instantaneous and my life not sustained at the vegetative state for an indefinite time.

I would have left it there and thought little else of the production. But the comments to the post were enlightening, one in particular from a fellow who reminded us that although the "stars" of the video were all teenagers, texting and driving was more than a teenage thing. I thought about those words and considered their point.

It's true. While the constituent parts of TAD makes it more than a teenage issue, there are three points that make teenagers more noticeable, and perhaps more susceptible to being blamed, in the grand picture.

First, teenagers (and now, I suppose, those recently matriculating to the ripe old age of twentysomething) are the primary TAD age group. Second, by the time many of these kids have started driving, they most likely will have been well practiced at the art of truncated communication for several years. Third, this same age group is, for the most part, always going to view death, with an impervious sneer. Death is something that will happen one day; but not today, not to my friends, and most assuredly not to me.

Those three characteristics, taken one at a time are relatively innocuous. Using the good old commonplace footwear of the laced sneaker, we can draw an apt analogy. When a pair of sneakers are properly laced and tied, they are fairly safe, practical, and quite useful. But, if the same pair of sneakers are laced or tied together, somebody is going to be tripping all over themselves, unable to walk. Transferring the context to TAD, the results will most likely be deadly, and quite probably crippling to at least one of the parties.

Teenagers and driving barely mix, especially in today's world where the lads and ladies are often tossed the keys to an automobile without a lot of training. What learning they do have is usually from watching idiot adults run stop lights and participate in road rage derbies almost daily. And they certainly are not privy to the caliber of training from the days of old where almost every high school curriculum included mandatory Driver's Education. It's almost like teaching the kids to shoot water pistols, telling them they have done a great job, and then tossing them their very own AK-47 . . . without the advice that this time the target will not walk away.

I can say this because I did have Driver's Ed in high school. And it was a great boon to my learning to be responsible behind the wheel. Yet, the first time I motored down an ice-covered rural road and had to stop . . . well, a bush next to the road did not survive.

(It was where Marlin Road intersects with 31W south of White House for those interested. The reedy remnants of the plastered plant were stacked by the roadside for what seemed like an eternity. I always thought the owner knew who did the deed and, in having the knowledge that said culprit traveled past quite often, left the limbs out there on purpose.)

Addressing point number two, when all you need is a cheap cell phone and simple data plan (usually paid for by well-intentioned Ma and/or Pa), anyone with two opposable thumbs can easily learn the tricks of the trade, so to speak. One young man spoke of texting being something that was done hundreds of times daily. Another, in speaking about one of the deceased subjects in the video, said the young lady could be carrying on a conversation with a person and be texting someone else. Admirable trait, this multi-tasking; more admirable, however, if someone is not dying because of its practice.

Finally, considering the last point, how many teenagers can comprehend death? We are not taught that death is right around the corner in most social scenarios as we grow up. Sure, there are some inner-city kids that will beg to differ. But, that is the exception to the rule when the entire American social stratum is considered. As well, with the current war climate in which we are living, quite a few kids have grown up and run off to war, while some kids have watched their Dads and Moms, Uncles and Aunts, Siblings and Cousins, do the same. Some of the soldiers will only return home in body bags to be eulogized. But again, that is an extreme exception and not the rule.

Another comment was from a lady who admitted to phone usage while driving. That is not unusual. I have done that. And, quite frankly, I tried to compose an email once using a smart phone keyboard. I gave up when realizing it was a stupid idea. But, once more, an adult will most likely have enough life experience samplings to understand the consequences of any actions better than a mere child.

The bottom line here is that, as I wrote in another piece a few days ago, we must be responsible and use our freedoms wisely. We must respect that life plays no favorites, and if we laugh in the face of responsiblity, life most likely will get the last snicker. However, we most likely will not be there to hear the echo.

Be safe out there, people . . .

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