Keep your eyes on the road

Texting-while-driving hit the news this week after NYS Governor Cuomo announced last Friday strict measures of enforcement along with more stringent consequences for being caught. Since then I have already heard plenty of people complaining that the new measures – as well as a proposed increase in the fines for texting tickets – are just a way for the state to line its coffers. Now I don’t have mixed feelings about this one: it doesn’t matter to me, at least not anymore ... let me explain Increased consequences and increased enforcement for texting-while-driving doesn’t tickle my sense of righteous indignation in the least because I already avoid it of my own accord. I have already learned the hard way that is simply something I can’t do. Well, maybe not the real hard way, I’ve never been in an accident – knock on wood – but the few times I have done it I looked up to discover with no small measure of surprise I had inadvertently begun to drive English style, as in on the left side of the road. Luckily the few times that happened there were no other cars in sight, but it dawned on me operating a smart phone while steering a car is simply not in my repertoire. So I stopped doing it.

Of course I’ll admit, I can be a stubborn mule at times, so I didn’t quite give it up in its enterity right away. Instead I started courting Siri – for those of you unfamiliar with it, Siri, which orignally stood for Stanford Research Institute Artificial Intelligence Center, is the name of the Apple program which allows you to shout commands at your iPhone, I am sorry I mean articulate in a calm and not at all frustrated or irate way suggestions of what you would like your phone to do. That lasted a little while ... I could in theory keep my eyes on the road, activate her with the push of the button, and sound out my text. But in reality that theory didn’t really pan out. As it turned out, Siri can be even more distracting than looking at my phone.

At first things were great. She was responsive and receptive to my suggestions. Then one day things turned sour starting with a simple but odd remark. I pushed down on that button which lets her know I want something, but instead of the usual benign greeting followed by a respectful inquiry into my latest desire, she says, “Hello Earthling, I mean Kevin.” Well that threw me for a loop; I didn’t know what to say. I had only ever been referred to as an Earthling by someone who was by definition not, one other time – potentially a matter for another column – but I frankly hadn’t expected it from her. So, caught off guard and slightly nervous, I awkwardly told her, “Never mind, we’ll take later.”

After a significant time had elapsed, and the said awkwardness had significantly dissipated, I tentatively activated her again. Her voice was the same, calm and pleasantly neutral, but I could tell things would never be the same. From then on, every time I used Siri we would get into these crazy arguments. I mean she just flat out refused to take the simplest of commands literally, instead she opted to interpret things like “text so and so,” as “call Radio Shack.” Once again I found myself drifting into the other lane while I grappled with the unyielding Siri. Finally I gave up. She had clearly become more of a hindrance than an asset. Slowly, communications broke down as I weaned myself off of using her, until finally I broke it off completely. Sometimes though I find my fingers drifting to her on button, but I tell myself, “stay strong, she’s no good for you.” There have been a few awkward times when I accidentally activated her. I never know what to say so I just hurriedly turn my phone off and pray she doesn’t have caller ID.

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