Driving Blind

cellplateNormally I am as road-oriented as possible when I’m in the car. My eyes are on traffic patterns, traffic signals, other vehicles, and the glory that is the asphalt itself. But this morning, for some reason, on my commute to work, I started people-watching. I doubt I’ll do that again.

Now, I understand that there are professionals on the road who have places to go and things to do. And I get that in this crazy world we live in more and more people rely on multitasking to get things accomplished. I too am a solid multitasker (not as good as I used to be in my younger years, but still adequate enough), but when I see someone driving with a cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee in one hand (the hand that’s also coincidentally the only one on the wheel), and a phone in the other, I start to worry.

This guy was probably around 25 years old, wearing a pinstripe suit (are those still in style?), and a silk tie. He was driving some type of small Nissan car, had a watch the size of a small marsupial, and seemed more intent on his texting adventures than his coffee drinking. His eyes were definitely not on the road, and his car was definitely not entirely in his lane. I kept my eye on him until his car was safely past mine, then shook my head.

No less than three or four minutes later I saw a woman (probably around 35) doing something very similar, except instead of having a cup of coffee in her hand, both hands were on her phone (which was balanced on the steering wheel) and she was texting furiously, apparently afraid the words wouldn’t get to their destination fast enough. Her eyes kept flitting back and forth between the road ahead and the phone below. I found myself wondering what would have happened if the phone suddenly slipped from her hands. I could imagine her dropping the wheel to fish it out from the depths. She too passed, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Maybe it’s best not to know what other motorists are doing while they commute to and from wherever. Perhaps it would keep me saner to pretend they’re all as conscientious as I am, with my hands always at 3 and 9 o’clock on the wheel, with my phone calmly charging itself in my cup holder, and with eyes on the road ahead. But now that I know what others are doing around me, how can I keep myself from studying every other driver as they pass and freaking out in the process?

I long for the days when the only distractions in the car were children asking if we were there yet.

Sam

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