I am sitting in traffic listening to my Blackberry ring off the hook.
It keeps ringing, but I don't pick up. I have purposely thrown the pesky thing in my purse and pitched it to the back seat, safely out of my own reach. And I realize this is like an alcoholic putting the vodka bottle on the top shelf with the step stool a few feet away, but at least I'm trying.
My name is Cathy, and I am addicted to my Crackberry. (Now YOU say, "Hi, Cathy!")
I am a menace to mobile society. I am hopelessly dependent on my cell phone and because my device of choice is a PDA - that's "Personal Digital Assistant," not "Public Display of Affection" (although, in my world, the two are interchangeable) - I also have the nasty habit of e-mailing and surfing the Web while behind the wheel.
There. I said it. I have actually sent e-mails and Google'd directions from my car. Not while actually driving, mind you. (That would be hitting bottom.) Still, on more than one occasion, I have been honked at, glared upon and gestured to by enraged motorists forced to wait behind me at a green light while I hit "Send" on my handheld.
My behavior can be traced back over 20 years when, as a young mother, I was diagnosed with VADD (Vehicular Attention Deficit Disorder.) Back then, I would habitually grope for fallen pacifiers, open ketchup packets with my teeth or wrap birthday presents while operating a moving minivan. After countless near-misses, I went into remission until my children obtained their own licenses. (Imagine their relief when they joined the ranks of teenage drivers who, as studies show, have longer attention spans than mothers with young children.)
A few years later, my condition reared its ugly head in what I call my "junkie phase." These were the dark years when no amount of police presence or traffic-calming devices could prevent me from taking sudden left turns into oncoming traffic to follow estate sale signs nailed to posts. Every Saturday I would drive through the streets, my view completely obstructed by a newspaper opened wide to the garage sale map. In the end, soaring insurance rates cured me of that obsession.
My recovery continued - two steps forward, one step back. Periodic stress caused occasional relapses like inattentive mascara application, one-handed salad eating and rubber-necking at hot men in running shorts. Soon, cell phones appeared on the scene, and my fate was sealed forever.
Today, the Blackberry (or "Crackberry," as my similarly afflicted brethren call it) has triggered my demons once more. But at age 50, I assure you I'm not driving around making chit-chat with my girlfriends about the clearance sale at World Market. I'm not gossiping with the neighbors. Or e-mailing memos to my boss.
If you see me talking on my phone or e-mailing furiously at a stoplight, chances are I'm communicating very important information to one person: myself. With my PDA I have found an almost foolproof way of keeping my short-term memory intact. Three, maybe four times a day, whenever very important information pops into my head, I dial my own number before I forget and leave a message like this:
"Hello, it's me. Reminding you to pick up your prescription and the laundry. And don't forget dinner with the O'Neills on Saturday because you forgot last time and who needs that drama again? Oh, and schedule a haircut before vacation. And that song you were trying to think of earlier was 'Delta Lady.' Okay, talk to you later..."
Make fun, if you will, but I know I'm not the only one using this strategy.
Perhaps this is what our traffic safety commissioners thought about when they voted against the cell phone ban awhile back. About the number of doctors' appointments and dinner engagements that would be forgotten. The sweaters and suits left at the cleaners for months on end. The pills never picked up from pharmacies and all that gray hair growing long and unruly.
What we would have had is a city full of shaggy, unkempt, hungry and under-medicated middle-aged people driving around aimlessly, mumbling to themselves.
Talk about a traffic safety problem.