Back in 2004, Sarah Potts—the wife of a Bothell, WA police officer—slammed into an either slowed in traffic or stalled vehicle with her SUV on a highway. All five members of a Bulgarian immigrant family of Turkish ethnicity were killed. Yet Potts was never charged with a crime or even ticketed for reckless driving. Why? Because she admitted to being “distracted” while talking on her cell phone, and according to the prosecutor’s office, there was no mention of cell phone use while driving on the books.
There was some minor outrage over the handling of this case that eventually led to laws prohibiting the use of hand-held mobile devices while driving, but almost everybody ignores this law. I remember a story in the old print edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer which featured a photograph of a police officer ticketing a man for using a cell phone, while a blonde female was watching from another vehicle—talking away on her handheld. There are many television advertisements these days which advise on the dangers of texting and driving (you mean there is no law yet against that?) but never any mention concerning talking with a handheld device; perhaps the makers of the ads are trying to make a “distinction,” since laws against talking on handhelds while driver is a major inconvenience.
Still, this is only the high-end of the cell phone annoyance factor. On public buses, people believe that they need to shout when talking on their phones, completely oblivious to the nerves of other riders. At the Kent Public Library, there is a tiny “quiet study area” which is rarely that, because it is the only area with power outlets for laptop computers, and unfortunately they are often used for another purposes. People who yammer all day on the cell and “smart” phones congregate in the area to plug in their phones low in battery life, only to continue their rude yammering despite the library policy to turn off their phones when in the “quiet” area. Library employees continuously overlook this, because they don’t want to get into a tussle with angry people are who attached to their phones as if it is a part of their anatomy.
I realize that cell and dumb phones have a certain convenience factor. Back in the “old” days that today’s “kids” would find unfathomable to imagine, communicating with the outside world required that a person be nailed in place—either in the home, at work or at the nearest payphone—or have a message machine which might provide information needed yesterday. But then again, people who were trying to contact you with important information would be aware of this limitation and make allowances for it, so it wasn’t that great an inconvenience. And quite often it provided you with an excuse not hear something you didn’t want to, or not say something until you had time to think about it.
But now everyone is expected to have a cell or dumb phone in hand, and be subject to contact every hour of the day. Not that some people are particularly bothered by this, such as those who are naturally-inclined to yammering all day in their maddeningly annoying voices. In the hands of these thoughtless, self-involved persons, these handheld instruments are by far the worst single invention humanity ever conceived. Now, instead of being forced to conduct their sob stories and tedious lives in the "privacy" of their homes, at work or in phone booths, people can bore and annoy anyone any time or any place.