Monday
Jul282008

« Not So Sure About Hands Free »

As you can read in the previous entry, I had my reservations about the whole hands free phone dealio in the car. I used my first Bluetooth bud for a couple days then found I hated it, so I swapped it out for one that simply hung over my ear rather than plugged in. I do like the newer one better since I don't have my ear blocked on one side, with the resulting sense of disorientation that you have when one ear is clogged. But then there is this:

Even though the thing is simpler to use and more comfortable, would you believe that in two instances—spaced by a few days—there have been drivers who have done some colossally stupid lane changes in front of me. And this while I was on the phone with Kelli on both occasions!

One day I was on a road that has three lanes plus the left turn lane. I was in the middle travel lane. Some driver decided that the left turn lane was not for him and that he really wanted to make a right turn at the same intersection, so he slashed clear across all lanes to do that. Had I not swerved, I might have T-boned him as he was cutting almost perpendicularly across my lane. All this was going on at maybe 40 miles an hour. That car would have been doomed if I were to have hit him. I was talking to Kelli and I watched this joker start his maneuver but it was so surreal to see someone do something so stupid and dangerous as if he were the only driver on the road. There was a moment where I realized what had happened then the flow of profanity began, and I realized that I was still on the phone, and was for a moment puzzled why Kelli was not responding to the whole thing. Duh, she wasn't in the car, but her voice was closer than if we were in person!

Then, just a couple days later—again on the phone with Kelli—almost the same thing happened in mirror image, though at a greater speed just as I was exiting the freeway. This new driver was poised to zoom down the exit ramp to the right and he had just passed the point where the exit ramp itself splits into two destinations. He decided that that was a fine time to try to make a swift cut into my lane, something that was close enough to equate to into my fender. This time I was also pretty dumbstruck at the business of such an outrageous maneuver coinciding with the few short minutes I talk to my wife on the phone. Again, it was a moment of pause after the fact to realize that while I heard her voice, she wasn't there to see it, and so it was that my talk was interrupted but not as if it had happened in person.

I don't know. I think it was genuinely dumb luck to have idiots cut me off like that, but I suppose that statistically, since I drive most of the day, it will happen that way whether I am on the phone or not. But like I expected, there is something new to worry about now that I have to approach using the phone differently. Sure, the Bluetooth is one button stuff, and has voice dialing and I don't need to hang up to end a call. But it is odd because at least the old way made it clear to my brain that I was on a phone call because my hand had to hold something that behaved like a phone. Now it is odd talking like on a phone but not holding one.

A few weeks ago I did actually have a very minor rear-end collision as I was driving down one of the steepest streets in San Diego—Laurel St. between Union and State. The van I was driving (not the F-150 I usually drive) locked its brakes and skipped down the concrete street surface for at least a car length, going maybe 15-20 miles per hour at most. That hill is steep enough that you have to ride your brakes if you don't have a green light all to yourself. Anyhow, some dillweed two cars ahead of me hesitated as he began a right turn during a green light. He stopped during the light and the two of us behind him had to slam on our brakes. He moved in time so the truck in front of me could have moved, but I locked up the brakes and was essentially out of control for a second. All that resulted was some bumper damage, and not much at that. Despite these close calls detailed above, during this actual incident, I was not on the phone, had no radio on, was not eating, or any of that. I happened to be in a vehicle that I trusted less and on a street that is pretty much the wrong place to start a brake-locked skid.

A coworker of mine went up to a cop and asked about the new law and how it affected the drivers who use the walkie talkie radio features like we do. The short answer was that push-to-talk was fine if it wasn't held up to my ears; if it was held out in front or beside me, it was okay, but to put it to the ear was illegal. Oh, fine. The company made a big deal about getting these ear bud things and for many of us who use the walkie talkies (but are disabled as phones), the buds are essentially needless! But as long as it works with my own phone, I will accept the use of one at company expense. My own phone has speakerphone anyway, so really I don't need to use the Bluetooth thing at all, it seems. But there is something to be said for having the thing when it comes time to talk while moving product and stuff. But I don't have to like it. I know I'd try to avoid paying for one myself.

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