Every once in a while (and by that I mean at least once a week) a new piece of technology comes along that makes the older generation simply shit themselves with fear over its possible implications. And of all the crazy contraptions invented over the past 20 years, none has caused more widespread fear than the cellular telephone, or cell phone, as it is often called.
Originally conceived of as a mobile device to facilitate conversation with one's fellow man, the invention quickly evolved into a handheld computer capable of surfing the web, listening to music, and of course, making videos of our cats.
And texting. Who would have guessed that the magic of wireless phone conversation would be superseded by pinging monosyllabic phrases and icons to one another? We live in an age of wonder.
First, effective July 1, 2008, came the bans on talking on your cell phone while driving – an act about as dangerous as drinking a cup of coffee whilst talking to a passenger.
Six months later came the drive-texting bans. Never mind the fact that we'd been changing the music on our iPods for years, and before that we were switching out CDs, and tapes and eight-tracks and lighting our cigarettes and God knows what else.
Now sending a text message, no matter how brief, or how slow the traffic, is a crime.
Thankfully, we're still allowed to get directions and traffic information, thanks to an Appellate Court ruling in February. But that only serves to highlight the laws' absurdity – it's illegal to communicate with our loved ones, but legal to check out how bad traffic is on the 10? As for utilizing our beloved social media, our Twitters, Facebooks, Instagrams, Snapchats, and so forth, those seems to be consigned to a murky gray area.
Perhaps most curiously of all, people actually think these laws are legitimate. Friends of mine who routinely hurtle down the 10 at 80 mph treat these Luddite cell phone bans as sacrosanct.
And so when we get a call, we're forced to go digging through our glove compartments like desperate raccoons, looking for our filthy ear buds, an act infinitely more dangerous than simply holding something up to our ear.
Well I say: nuts to that.
That's why I text.
Sure, it's illegal, but you get the sense that it's harder to spot from a cop car, especially if you hold the phone in your lap (of course that makes it much more dangerous, since your eyes are further away from the road, but what can you do?). If a cop does pull you over, you can always lie and say you were getting directions.
As my colleague Dennis Romero has pointed out, there is already a law against distracted driving. And plenty of other activities are legal and dangerous – like, say, driving while trying to get your screaming 3-year-old to stop spitting Cheerios all over his car seat.
We trust people to do these things and not careen off the side of the road because, well, human beings are surprisingly responsible creatures. According to the Census Bureau, Americans get into roughly the same number of car accidents today as they did in 1990, even though millions of them are texting eggplant emojis to members of the opposite sex.
Let's face it, we all text in the car some of the time. In fact, a 2013 survey found that four years after the ban had gone into effect, texting was up 126 percent.
Maybe it's just when we're at a red light, or just when we're stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. I think of myself as a highly developed human being, capable of tweeting while switching across four lanes of traffic at LAX. But I've always excelled at doing things while only half paying attention.