Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Accidental Disclosure

After coming very close today to plowing into a jackass that pulled out in front of me way too late, while I was foolishly zooming down the right-turn only lane assuming everyone going straight or left would continue to do so, I decided that (a) they’re not accidents, they’re mistakes and (b) we should start including the driver’s name(s) and hometowns in the morning traffic reports when these mistakes happen. Perhaps removing the anonymity people enjoy behind the wheel will make them think twice before making a move they fully know is unreasonable and so often prickish.

Today’s delay is courtesy of Tony le Tigre of the 700 block of Narcissist Row in Westchester Hills. Tony decided he needed to be in the right lane when it was already occupied and didn’t feel like waiting his turn. You can reach Tony on his cell at 202-555-PUNK or drop him an email at selfentitledbastard@alwaysgottabefirst.com and thank him personally for providing you with a cardiac workout and some extra driving time this morning.

Our traffic nightmares in the morning and evening rush are partly due to too many vehicles on highways that weren’t meant to support the volume, or that were poorly designed from the outright. But I contend most of our real delays are due to the mistakes that are entirely avoidable if people had respect for the laws of traffic and more importantly the laws of physics, they paid attention and they waited their mothertrucking turn!

I’m not the best driver by any means, and I really try to count to 10 and not react in any vehicular way like following, tailgating, braking, beeping or even flipping off drivers who f’ up. I wish others would follow suit. We all take it personally of course because the behavior is simultaneously selfish and risky. And when there are kids in the car, yours or mine, it’s really hard not to lose it.

There are times when someone is in a legitimate hurry (getting a pregnant woman to the hospital when the contractions are down to five minutes apart, rushing to your child’s school when all you’ve been told is “they’ve been injured”), but most times it’s because the other driver is an ass. When that’s the case, and they cut you off or cause an accident, I can guarantee it’s not the first time they were an ass and it won’t be the last.

So instead of worrying about them myself, or feeling any need to react emotionally, I’d rather just hear about them on the radio or read about them in the paper (list them right after the crime log).

Sorry I was late to work today, boss. Apparently Paris Hyatt couldn’t be bothered with all those distracting lights, signs and signals yet still felt confident enough in her multitasking proficiency to text her boyfriend as she flew through the intersection of Inconsiderate & Brainless. Actually, she only made it into the intersection before colliding with the truck that had the actual right of way. I’ll be sure to send a flowery eCard to wtfwereyouthinking@heynumberone.com when she’s feeling a little better.

I know my rant is harsh but I have very little patience with those who know better and choose to risk the lives of others all for a few seconds or a better place in line. And half the time it’s to get to work. Who wants to be there earlier? Please, after you.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Wireless – The Next Big Tobacco

A totally paranoid conspiracy theory, or the truth we already know and simply choose to suppress back into that little space deep within our psyches where we tell ourselves the government would never let us hurt ourselves, especially in the name of convenience or big business?

I’m not one to lie so my guess is our cool, techy, gadget-filled, wireless world of constant communication is slowly killing us, and not just from the information overload. I truly believe just like big tobacco buried the truth decades ago about the addictive/harmful qualities of nicotine and tobacco, and what we all told ourselves to rationalize our own addictions, the same is happening again, only this time it’s companies like Apple, Verizon, AT&T, MCI, Comcast, Microsoft, Netgear, and Cisco at the helm.

I’m not an engineer or a scientist, and I can’t explain exactly how all these things work, but I believe we’re all being bombarded 24/7 by wireless microwave technology – cell phones, cordless phones, blackberries, digital and satellite TV and radio, Wi-Fi (internet hotspots, our own home wireless networks), even infrared remotes. And we keep adding the devices, networks and features to our arsenal of gotta-haves.

Just because we can’t see it or feel it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect us. I think of the technician who drops a 15-pound lead vest on us for x-rays (even dental), and physically leaves the room, often quickly, to get behind an additional shield before clicking the button. Are they crouching when they click? I bet they even squint a little. Remember the warning signs they used to post on microwave ovens for anyone with a pacemaker (stand back at least three feet) – we’d put our food in them and then leave the room, just like the techs.

When I think of our wireless world today, I imagine a jewel thief who sprays an aerosol fog to reveal an intricate laser-guided alarm system that lights up like brilliant strings in Jacob’s ladder, and we’re standing in center of the web.

By the time the true, long-term studies are released to the public, and the direct link to the meteoric rise of cancers like brain and bone marrow is established, it will be too late because we won’t care. OK, we’ll care, but we’ll be more concerned about losing our conveniences. Hell, it’s already too late.

The data will verify the cancer link just like they did for smoking and lung cancer, and we’ll resist it, refute it, search for other possible factors, ignore it or ultimately dismiss it. How many studies did we really need to tell us inhaling burning paper and chemically treated tobacco into our lungs was harmful? How many studies will we need to tell us working all day long in supercharged environments with powerful wireless networks, PCs and laptops isn’t healthy? Or wearing microwave receivers on our hips (pockets or purses) and holding them to our temples for 1,000 minutes per month (and unlimited nights and weekends) isn’t the safest thing to do? And we buy them for our kids.

Maybe the line should start forming here for the class action suit for second-hand wi-frying.

No one needs a cell phone, or total disconnected access. If you want to call someone, you can use a landline or a pay phone (if you can find one). But when’s the last time you pulled the car over and dialed a 10-digit number by hand that wasn’t stored in your device’s directory. And we could plug into wired docks for internet/LAN access, but I know no one wants to regress. And if I ever suggested these actions in the workplace, I’d be ridiculed and ignored.

And I’m not excluding myself from those who can’t live without wireless. I’ve got all the gadgets too, and a full list of rationalizations. The question I have to ask myself is if I want to live a shorter, much more convenient, adult life, or start changing my dependencies now?

Do I have the facts or proof or studies? No. I may just be paranoid and technically uninformed. Even if I did, would you believe me?

Just food for thought. Can you hear me now? Will you hear me then?

Postscript. I didn't say my idea was original. Here are a bevy of links after a quick Google search:

Sunday, April 06, 2008

If you can’t hear me, why are you shouting?

Why do people speak louder into their phones when they can’t hear the person on the other line? I do it myself. It’s like wiping your cheek when you see an eyelash on someone else’s face, or hitting the imaginary brakes when you’re in the passenger seat.

I can promise you, increasing the volume of your own voice has no affect on theirs.

I get it. We can’t live without our cell phones. But it seems to me more often than not, we can’t hear people very well when we’re on them and it’s usually our own fault. We love the convenience, but taking a call outside, in the car, in a store, in a bar, in a restaurant (really? do you have to?), is more trouble than its worth due to the competing noise around us. And we end up annoying everyone.

What’s even more frustrating is when you’re in a quiet setting when someone takes a call from someone on their cell phone who can’t be heard. Your officemate or library neighbor just speaks progressively louder, and eliminates all chances of membership in Mensa.

No matter how hard I try, I cannot get the earpiece volume for my mobile phone up beyond the top bar. It’s like repeatedly hitting the elevator call button in futility when it doesn’t arrive fast enough – of course, if it did arrive fast enough we’d all completely freak out during the ride when our heads pounded into the ceiling and there was still no view of Wonkaville. I think if the elevator manufacturers started making the light toggle on and off every time we hit the button, they might actually break us of this moronic habit. Again, I do it myself.

So the next time you’re on the phone and can’t hear, please go somewhere that you can, or ask the person to call you back on a better line (if that’s a reasonable request). At least stop shouting.

And I lied about Mensa (http://www.mensa.org/). The only requirement for membership is a high IQ – common sense and decorum are optional, and apparently don’t correlate with intelligence. There will always be plenty of rude, loud people, genius or not-so-genius, screaming into their cell phones, repeatedly punching elevator buttons and providing more fodder for my blogs.