I listened to NPR's Talk of the Nation today while taking a shower. They were discussing a proposal, from Derrick Jackson of the Boston Globe, to create a Federal ban on talking on the phone while driving. Here's a link to his op-ed piece, which lists the research that suggests that driving while talking on the phone is equivalent to driving after a 3-Martini lunch.
I agree with Mr. Jackson, but that isn't the point of this post. What amazed me was the people who phoned in to comment on the show. To a caller, they all said that yes, yes, it's terrible, other people can't talk and drive - but they can. The callers all have the superior wisdom or multitasking capacity or whatever to drive a car and have a phone conversation - hell, maybe they juggle plates too. One man ("I've been a truck driver for 24 years") even suggested that there should be an advanced driving license that allows one to telephone while driving, after demonstrating ability.
This demonstrates a feature of the American psyche that has been driving me nuts for some time. I sum it up in this phrase:
"You can't mean those rules apply to me??"
People rarely actually say this; but they act it. When you see someone jaywalking, or crossing against the light, or doing some other damn stupid thing that happens to be against the law, they're implying that the rules don't apply to them. And they're terribly offended if they get a ticket for it. The infuriating ones are those who drag their kids along with them, against the light; they're raising the next generation of people who don't believe the rules apply to them.
It's the people whose cell phones go off in movie theaters, or concert halls. I was charmed to learn recently that using a cell phone in a New York theater during a concert will get you a $50 fine. It's the people who throw McDonald's wrappers on the sidewalk, and Coke cans in the shrubbery. My shrubbery. It's the people who walk their dogs off-leash in leash-only areas, and who don't pick up the poop. From my flower beds.
It's the people in every chorus I've ever sung in, who routinely ignore the director's instructions on singing on pitch, because, of course, she can't mean them; they aren't singing flat. (I said this to my voice coach, who teaches classes as well as individuals; and he just slumped over the keyboard for a minute.) I'm happy to say that eventually the singers do get up to pitch; but we'd get there a lot faster if all of them would stop for a second and ask themselves, can I be doing that?
There was just one caller on Talk of the Nation who admitted that she herself had run 3 red lights while talking on the phone and driving; but that was as close as anyone came.
Yes, folks, the rules do apply to you, just as they apply to me; and we'll all get along together a lot better if we realize that.
Speaking of driving, the activity I really want to see prohibited while driving a car is applying mascara using the rear-view mirror.