Smart Technology Breeds Dumb People (or People Who Do Dumb Things)

>> Friday, August 21, 2009

So, in my last post I lamented the trials and tribulations of my dependency on a fickle and unreliable internet. As of this writing, the problem is not yet fixed. Nonetheless, today we return to our regularly scheduled programming, where I will continue my lamentations about our society’s growing dependency on portable technology in the car.

As you may recall, two postings ago, I described to you the odd behavior of my new GPS, particularly the part where it suddenly demanded that I make a legal u-turn after I had been driving for several blocks on the road it told me to drive on. I described my utter confusion at the verbal instructions and reprimands the machine was giving me. What I did not tell you was that I broke the rules of good driving and took a few glances at the GPS as I was getting these conflicting messages -- just a few quick sneaks at traffic lights. I do think if I had been able to look at the screen in detail, I might have seen that the machine failed to inform me of a turn that would have made the route a little shorter and straighter. But, the truth is, I almost never look at the screen of a GPS unless I'm being a backstreet driver. I figure if the thing can't tell me in words where to turn, it isn't worth the money someone paid for it. (Thank you, Aunt Marcy.) Driving in the middle of downtown Washington, DC is sometimes enough like playing a game of dodge-the-cars-and-pedestrians as it is without trying to do it while staring at a screen. After all, DC has a law against using cell phones in a car without also using a handsfree interface, and this GPS thing is way worse than my cell phone. (Don’t even get me started on how hard it is sometimes to make the hands free part work and how many buttons you have to push sometimes to start it – it might be faster to just dial the silly number….. but I digress. That is a rant for another day.)

Honestly, I just don’t understand drivers that spend time looking at GPS screens when they drive. I imagine those who do are the same ones that look at their Blackberry or I-Phone while they drive, too. To me, it seems like common sense that if you wouldn’t read a book while driving, you shouldn’t be typing with your thumbs or reading your email either, but obviously not everyone agrees. Hey, it wouldn’t be the first time that someone didn’t agree with something I thought was obvious.

My first clue that there were otherwise very bright and highly educated people checking their email on the freeway came several years ago at a company meeting. The head of our company mentioned, among other announcements, that it was company policy to refrain from checking your Blackberry while driving. Ummm … duh? Honestly, I could hardly believe that the man had said such a thing. Seriously, there was a meeting among higher ups where they actually sat down and had an agreement to add “don’t read your Blackberry while driving” to the formal company policy? Wow, what a colossal waste of time.

Alas, I was na├»ve. I never truly imagined that anyone with the education and intelligence enough to be hired by that company to a position that required a Blackberry would actually try to use it while driving. Boy, was I wrong. I don’t know how widespread the problem was, but the woman down the hall was a prime offender. I knew her reasonably well – she was small, tough, and afraid of nothing in the world I knew of but getting lost while driving. I don’t know if she is still typing on her smart phone while driving, but if she has a GPS, I’m willing to bet she’s looking at that while driving.

I guess to each his own … just don’t be heading my way with your eyes in your hands.

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