Cell Phones and the Bouncing Red Ball

by Translation Guy on January 11, 2012

Which Amendment in the Bill of Rights is for cell phones? Better figure it out soon, ‘cause the black suits in the black helicopters are preparing to take your God-given rights away, namely the right to keep and bear smartphones while driving your American Dream-mobile. Call it the Spirit or Route 66.

Those eggheads over at the Transportation Safety Board have recommendation that states ban cell phones in cars as a matter of public safety!  This includes hands-free too, because people are too stupid to have a conversation and drive a car at the same time, scientists have discovered.

Doh! I already knew that.  I can’t drive and do anything at the same time, except whistle, and then just the two or three songs I know by heart. Gotta love that whistling on a long drive.

“There is a large body of evidence showing that talking on a phone, whether hand-held or hands-free, impairs driving and increases your risk of having a crash,” Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said.

So say the Swedes, too.  “There is no evidence suggesting that hands-free mobile phone use is less risky than handheld use,” says the Swedish government.

Yet 40% of US drivers believe that hands-free is OK. But conversation is deeply distracting. In fact, unless you hold your hands over your ears and sing in a loud voice, you will immediately start listening to the sound of any voice you hear speaking your native languages.

“When someone is speaking your native language, you can’t will yourself to not hear and process it. It just goes in,” Just said. Even if a driver tries to ignore the words, scientists “can see activation in the auditory cortex, in the language areas (of the brain).”

So I guess I should be doing public service spots to discourage people from calling 1-800-Translate from their car phone and using interpreting services at the same time. Like maybe some touring racer calling his business partner in Shanghai to complain about QA on the last shipment. “Wang, listen up, we’ve got a problem…” Boom!  I have a vision. Just got to get the budget for it.

So what was I talking about? Yes. Talking takes serious, fast thinking, and demands a lot of our attention. The more focused we get on the conversation, the less attention we have for other matters.

Our capacity for speech, and our capacity to recognize our own limits, is wrapped up around our consciousness and our experience of self.

Attention’s bouncy red ball leaves a lot out of the big picture, which in this case is a great iceburg afloat in the misty Artic sea. Imagine that your little red ball is getting tossed from seal nose to seal nose, depending on what come to your mind. And let those barking seals be metaphors for all the kind of stuff you think about, work, play, love, each a locus of memory and habit, each dancing about on the great iceberg that is your true mind, the great one-ness that does all the heaving mental lifting of your being, governor of your heart and soul, ever-ready guardian from danger and death, and 90% of all of that hidden below the waterline of a stormy sea, unknown to the sentient seals on the summit, which are you, if you catch my drift.

So now when we talk, let’s follow the little red ball. Maybe that’s why so many prefer less intense exchanges by text and blog, so much less demanding than the full-on face-to-face required for a friendly conversation (and no germs either). In other cases, such as my own, that little red ball is more like a laser pointer flickering up the drapes. Meow!

So what did we learn?

  1. Someday the gov’mint is gonna take your cellphone if you drive or stop you from driving altogether, Make you buy some dang robot to drive for you, no doubt, but at least then you can use your cell phone anytime as your God-given right, in accordance with that Article in the Bill of Rights, whichever one it is. Plus it will be for your own good because you ain’t got the smarts to talk and drive at the same time either (no offence intended).
  2. Someday you are going to tell your barber or masseuse that you actually prefer quiet to talk, and you will then receive the best rub-down or hair cut you ever got from them. Try it, it works.
  3. Someday you will remember where that little red ball got off to. It was just here a minute ago…


  1. Wilber says:

    Driving and whistling at the same time? I don’t know, Ken. In terms of distraction my hunch is that whistling ranks right up there with picking your nose or reaching around to swat the 10-year-old troublemaker in the back seat (ah, the memories).

    I play the harmonica instead – it’s relaxing, creative, and nondistracting.

  2. Cap'n says:

    I try not to talk on my phone when I drive, and that is because I am aware that I drive slower when I talk. I can’t stand slow drivers and those who are so into their conversations that they drive create traffic problems. I think hands free should be fine, I mean we can sing a long to the radio and talk to our passengers, so why not that?

  3. I’m just waiting for the Star Trek communicators we can wear on our chest. Just tap them and say who you want to talk to. Until then, there will be groups trying to take our phones away in our cars.

  4. Brian Singh says:

    I am totally for banning cell phones in cars. I can’t stand texting and driving or people dialing their phones. Hands free and voice controlled if fine, but if you have to manually dial a phone and then talk hands free, that still puts everyone else at risk.

  5. The Swedes don’t need a driving and cell phone law, they drive Volvo’s. Why is anyone listening to their evidence?

  6. tarnold99 says:

    Actually, I jthink if I were to talk on a phone I would pay more attention to the road. My little bouncy red ball goes crazy when I drive long distance. I usually come to my senses and wonder where I am and how I got there.

  7. Bill Ding says:

    They can have my cell phone when I drive when they pry it from my cold dead hand. (hopefully, I’m not dead because I wasn’t paying attention to the road why I was talking on my cell phone).

  8. Rose says:

    So what are we supposed to do? Have a sing-a-long like the Griswalds? If we can’t have a cell phone then auto manufacturers need to stop putting radios with buttons in cars too!

    • Ken says:

      I don’t think singing for safety is such a good idea, at least the way I sing. Now family whistling…. that’s just good wholesome fun.

  9. Ray Lam says:

    Talking on the phone is not the problem – texting is! To text you have to look at the phone and not hold on to the steering wheel. We have been talking and driving since cars hit the road.

    • Ken says:

      You should drive a cab in NYC, Ray. You would fit right in.

  10. There may be cerbral goings on when we hear others talking, but I think I have been able to tune out converstaion language. Here’s the secret: Drive with your kids and you learn to tune everything else out.

    • Ken says:

      Kids are great for putting the snap back in your attention span.

  11. I already have a robot to drive me around…it’s called my husband.

    • Ken says:

      Is that the same model that takes out the trash? My wife wants one that doesn’t talk back.

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