I have this habit of watching cars behind me as I meander along highways, byways, and rural routes, mostly as I make my way into work in the mornings and home in the evenings. It is a protective habit as much as anything else, a way to check to see if I am going to get hit from behind as traffic comes to a screeching halt, again and again, resulting in a proverbial caravan of cars on an asphalt yo-yo. It’s not that I would have time to avert disaster, mind you, if I were to see a car careening in my direction but more of an involuntary reflex when traffic tightens. More times than not, however, regardless of the driver behind me, the amount of traffic on the road, or the time of day, one thing is for certain, the person in my rear view mirror is distracted.
With our unmitigated need for constant, fully-encompassing entertainment in full view, demographers continually create new and witty generational monikers to describe subsets of Americans more quickly than CBS cancels my favorite TV series in favor of another tenuous reality show featuring tattoos and toddlers, or some such thing. They have properly dubbed us the YouTube Generation, the 9/11 Generation, the Debt Generation, the MyPod Generation, etc., patching into patterns of behavior, societal norms, and other seemingly descriptive ways to define scores of people regardless of age. And suffice it to say…we are all these things, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, sisters and brothers alike. We are described in light of our habits; whether they are in the form of texting, Facebooking, video game playing, etc. And while these habits may conveniently group scores of people in easily definable subsets in which marketers can target with relentless precision, they all share one common attribute; they are simple distractions masquerading as technological necessities.
Of course it is easy for me to say that your iPhone is a distraction while I play my next word on Words with Friends, grab an email, Google an address while sitting at a red light, or comment on my wife’s Facebook status while she sits beside me. I’m as guilty as the next distracted member of the MyPod Generation, I surmise, as I offer my phone to my four year old to keep her quiet during the last half of America’s Got Talent…secretly hoping Professor Splash hits the bottom of the pool or at least catches a tag line as he plunges from his 40 foot rest. My hypocrisy aside, however, I’ll assure you of one thing; my distraction(s) won’t propel me into the back of your vehicle while cruising down the interstate at 70 miles per hour…or at least won’t anymore. I have seen the light, which, ironically enough, came to me in those few fleeting seconds, between my glance in the rear view mirror and the screeching brakes of the distracted driver behind me. He stopped in time, waved, and finished up his text message, as if to say, “My bad, traffic sure is heavy this time of day.”
Inching forward, I felt a gentle pulsation on my hip…a text message…for me. Who could it be? I waited, however, until I reached a red light to respond, enacting my new found restraint of all things phone related so I wouldn’t endanger my fellow drivers. And while I typed some silly thing, a honk from the driver behind me was my cue that the light was yet again green. Wishing traffic lights were just a little longer, I put aside my phone and proceeded through the intersection. As is my habit, I peered into the rear view mirror and noticed the driver behind me didn’t make it though the light. And as she faded in the distance, I’m certain the person on the other side of her cell phone got to hear all about it. Just a thought!