Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I'll admit I'm not always a stickler for observing the law. I sometimes take home interesting sea shells I find at the shoreline -- including a huge fossilized sand dollar I stumbled over while running on Ocean Beach that I use as a paperweight. I recently had a wood fire going in the fireplace on a Spare the Air night, but it was freezing and I wasn't aware of the pollution rating until I saw the 11 p.m. weather report (I know, I could easily check online). I might even walk on the grass. But when the state passes a law that actually makes good practical sense, I experience a sort of seething rage when I see people deliberately ignoring it. For instance, since July 2005, Section 24400 of the California Vehicle Code requires that drivers using their windshield wipers also turn on their headlights. In other words, if it's raining hard enough to require wipers, visibility is limited enough that headlights might prevent a collision. (When the law first went into effect, a coworker reminded of it during the first rain of the season responded, "What do you think I am -- Canadian?") Yet throughout yesterday's constant downpours, cars without headlights kept advancing on me on city streets and freeways, small black holes of potential death and dismemberment that simply don't register visually when nearly every other vehicle on the road is emitting bright beams of light.

The headlight issue I can deal with. But the hands-free cell phone law violators drive me crazy. You can spot them from behind, the cars going 40 mph on the freeway with 20 open car lengths ahead of them, so engrossed in their conversation that it's taken precedent over their ability to be present and alert in a moving two-ton metal vehicle. Who are these people talking to? I have a demanding job and an active social life, but I can just about always wait until I've arrived at my destination to have a cell phone conversation. And I certainly don't want to chat at length with anyone on the phone, even when I'm not driving. Yet there are so many violation styles to consider. Let's take a look at the different scofflaw techniques you're likely to encounter on the road:

The Flauter. Fully aware that he's violating the law, he has absolutely no concern what you think. In his mind, he's entirely too important not to answer a ringing phone, and connecting a hands-free attachment would consume valuable seconds of his day. He makes no attempt to conceal what he's doing, and figures the chances of being pulled over for a cell phone violation are equal to the likelihood that he'll be enjoying a candlelit supper with Megan Fox.

The Pantomimist.
Even more self-absorbed than the Flauter, the Pantomimist actually acts out his phone conversation as he's driving, meaning that one hand is on the phone and the other is wildly gesturing like a field mechanic waving in a 747. The only time the phone breaks contact with the ear is when he needs that hand's descriptive properties to add texture to his narrative, as in lamenting the size of the fish that got away. How he steers is a complete mystery, although there may be some knee involvement.

The Matriarch.
Since this woman never gets off the phone at any time in her waking life, she's not about to stop using it just because she's driving a car. Barely conscious of the fact that she's driving, she's orchestrating baby showers, arranging annulments, and smoothing over the various parole violations of her extended family. Honk at her and risk being assaulted with her phone; she's got a spare.

The Scoocher. The Scoocher is the type of driver who always operated his vehicle as though it were a sort of rolling bed, with the seat reclined as far as as possible while still managing to have a sight line that just grazes the dashboard. Now he adds nuance to his time-honored stance by tilting sideways, sure that the phone he's holding can't be seen. The problem is, now he really can't see the road.

The Captain Kirk. Never having quite gotten the definition of "hand-held," the Captain holds his phone in front of him like a Star Trek communicator, believing he's somehow within the law if the device isn't actually pressed to his ear. Unfortunately, he also thinks this qualifies him to drive his car at Warp Speed.

The Multi-tasker. Usually a female, this driver maintains a protracted phone conversation with one hand while doing at least one other task besides driving: crunching her eyelashes with one of those scary-looking curling things, applying mascara, or reorganizing the contents of her hand bag. I recently looked in the rear-view mirror and saw a woman talking on the phone, steering with her elbows, and knitting a sweater.

The Jack Benny. This person's clever strategy is to hide the phone with his hand and clamp it to the side of his face like the legendary comedian doing a bit. Cross-dressers who employ this technique are known as Milton Berles.

Heckle & Jeckle. This is when two people in a car are both engaged in phone conversations, possibly with each other. Which means there isn't even a helpful friend in the front seat to scream at the distracted driver, "Look out for that explosive tanker truck!" These are the same people you see in restaurants not talking to each other but conversing, via cell phone, with others not present.

The Downcaster.
The most common of all the cell phone violators, you'll see this person in your rear-view mirror and realize she hasn't looked up in five minutes while operating a speeding vehicle. That's because she's texting, and if she slams into the back of your car that will only give her another topic to LOL/OMG about.

I'm sure there are more types of cell phone criminals. I'll update this post if I spot others....

No comments:

Post a Comment