OUR CORNER: This cell phone law is bananas

By Brian Beckley

I was driving into work one day last week when I noticed a woman in a Hummer swerving all over the road, nearly taking out traffic in the incoming lane.

“Gah!” I thought, distracted for a second from my shaving and nearly cutting myself with my razor. “She must be holding a cell phone! Doesn’t she know how dangerous that is? She’s going to kill us all! It’s difficult enough trying to shave in a car without worrying about some SUV-driving scofflaw holding a cell phone. Thank god the good men and women of the Washington State Legislature took the time out of their busy schedules to protect us from unthinking swine like this woman! Otherwise we’d all be dead!”

I decided the only rational move was Pursuit Intervention Technique, the cop maneuver I learned years ago at a Citizens’ Academy that is used to spin a car into a ditch during a chase.

I don’t particularly like to take the law into my own hands, especially one as stupid as the new cell phone driving ban, but a law is a law. I put down my razor, took a deep breath, checked my seatbelt and began my acceleration toward her driver’s side, rear fender.

As I approached, I could finally get a good look through her heavily tinted rear windows. Luckily, it was just before I spun her off the road when I noticed she was not holding a cell phone, but simply trying to feed her child in the back seat. Sure, she was all over the road, but not a hazard like those idiots holding their cellphones, right?

And children are not illegal yet, despite the fact that there is no bigger distraction anywhere than a screaming child or two.

As I eased off the accelerator, I thought about the law and once again thanked the lord that I lived in a state that finally protects me from the dangers of hand-held cell phones. I picked up my razor with one hand and went back to buttering my bagel with the other.

Both of which, by the way, are still not specifically illegal here in the Evergreen State.

Yes, our Legislature may not be able to get together to save the basketball team, or figure out how to replace the Seattle viaduct, which has been a dangerous, crumbling mess since the 2001 Nisqually earthquake or even figure out a way to properly fund the schools in this state, but at least they got this law passed, requiring everyone to go out and buy expensive, shiny new earpieces if they want to talk and drive.

Nevermind that the study they used to justify the law says that the problem is the distraction of conversation and not actually holding the phone, or that it is illegal in this state to drive with headphones in, the Legislature took a progressive stand and became the sixth state in the union to approve the hand-held ban, forcing people to ... put in headphones while they drive.

This is not the first time I have watched these laws go into effect. I lived in New York when the nation’s first hand-held cell phone ban went into effect. It was a stupid law then and it’s a stupid law now.

Personally, I don’t mind the law as I grew up in an Italian neighborhood so not having to hold the cell phone means I have yet another hand with which to gesticulate wildly as I talk.

But the problem of driving while distracted is already illegal, so why outlaw one specific mechanism?

In New York, for example, just weeks after the law went into effect, a local congressman got into a car accident because he was distracted. It had nothing to do with his cell phone, however; he was simply changing the stations on his car radio and bashed into a guard rail.

Lord knows what kind of death and destruction he’d have caused if that hand had been holding a phone instead of a radio knob!

But as dumb as the new law is, our brave leadership in this state have delivered it from on high, so we must obey it, as bananas a proposition as that is.

So here’s what I propose as a protest measure: Put in your earpiece when you are on the phone, but hold a banana to your ear while you do it. Holding a banana in one hand while you are talking on the phone is still legal, of course.

Fight the power and support your local fruit importer! Plus, after you finish your call, you can have a tasty, high-potassium snack! Everybody wins!

Now if the Legislature would only find a way to fix the potholes so I don’t nick my chin while I’m shaving.

This column was originally published in July 2008 edition of the now-defunct Sumner Reporter.

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