Yesterday when I got home from work, I was feeling a little icky so I popped myself down on the couch and turned on the tube. Oprah was interviewing Julia Roberts about her new film, based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling book, Eat, Pray, Love. This blog post is not about Oprah, Julia, or the book (which, incidentally, I tried reading a couple of years ago but just couldn’t get into…). Nope, it’s about Oprah’s “No Phone Zone” Pledge that she’s asked her guests and audience to sign over the course of the season. I’m not an Oprah groupie, but I am incredibly impressed by what she’s doing to challenge us to think about using our cell phones while driving.
This issue is near & dear to my heart. Four years ago, a dear friend of ours from U of I, Matt Wilhelm, was killed by a texting driver. He was only 25. Matt was so full of life, an incredible joyful, giving young man. His life was cut short because a young girl was distracted while driving. She was doing something that I think all of us have done before: paying attention to something other than the road, and a life was lost because of her carelessness. The bulletin from Matt’s Memorial Service is tucked away inside of my Bible. His death is a reminder of my obligation to treat this wonderful life with the care that it deserves. His life (albeit short) reminds to savor every day & to glorify God while I’m fortunate to be on this earth. (Incidentally, Matt’s parents were on Oprah’s special about texting & driving. They have been incredible ambassadors for making real changes to our laws around texting/driving).
We need the same social stigma that exists around drinking & driving to exist for distracted driving (especially texting & driving). Are we really that busy that our cars need to become our offices? Can we not wait until we get home to read or send that text or email? Are we willing to put innocent lives at risk? 10 years ago, most of us didn’t own cell phones and we managed to get along just fine (I got my first cell phone in 2004). I was shocked a month ago when we went out to dinner with Matt’s uncle, a pilot, who doesn’t own a cell phone! If Uncle Vic can survive without as he jets all over the world, can we not hold off on texting until we’re safely off of the road & out of the driver’s seat?
(That's Matt W. on the top-left with a small group of our YL leadership team in 2003. This is unrelated, but of the four boys pictured above - three of them are Matts. And one of them is mine.)Oprah poses this question in a recent NYTimes Op Ed, how many people have to die until we “get it”? Take the pledge here, for Matt, the Wilhelm family, and the thousands of lives already lost by distracted drivers. I did.
On a semi-related note, since I’m preaching at you today, can we talk about social etiquette and cell phones? [Disclaimer: I realize no one’s life is at stake if you text, take phone calls, etc, while we’re hanging out (unless you’re driving!)… so you may choose to stop reading at this point, but you will run the risk of being incredibly rude].
Matt & I were hanging out with some folks (who shall remain unnamed) this past year for the first time in awhile. The entire time we were with them, their phones were out. Texting away… all the while pretending to engage in conversation. I’m a decent multi-tasker, but even I can’t pull that off. This is not the first time this has happened (nor will it be the last), but it just lit my wick.
I understand there will be circumstances when it’s necessary to check your phone, respond to a text, take a call, etc (heck, the primary way my brother seems to communicate to my parents is via text). However, in those instances, excuse yourself and keep it to a minimum. Put your iPhone/ Blackberry/ Whatever away for a few minutes. I realize that for my generation, it may seem like all of this isn’t a faux-pas at all, just a way of life. Just keep in mind….you never know who is taking note of your etiquette, or lack there of.
I’ve had blackberry ever since I started working. It’s wonderful in a lot of ways (I work from home a couple days a week & we don’t have a landline nor do I have enough cell phone minutes on our family plan to cover all of the conference calls we have in a month’s time); however, I’ve always kept a personal cell phone. Seems duplicative, but having that second phone gives me the freedom to turn work OFF and not look at work emails when I’m enjoying time with family or friends. Also, the second cell phone removes the temptation to respond to emails when I’m trying to separate myself from work. It’s called liberation, friends!
Here’s a closing thought: Do we value human interaction so little that when we do have face-to-face quality time with one another, we’re reluctant to engage? In my humble opinion, it's just plain rude. Amen.
Phew. Glad I got those 2 pet peeves off my chest. Happy Tuesday, friends!