Look, Officer: No Hands!

Seven steps to a hands-free future

Does your heart skip a beat when you hear that tell-tale bing? Do you wonder if it’s the sweet sound of your ship coming in? Or does it evoke sour but equally urgent thoughts: Get in here now or you’re fired! Does the flashing light on your Blackberry make you reach for the damn thing while merging onto the Spaghetti Bowl?

You, my friend, are an addict. Starting Oct. 1, the cops will warn you that you’ll just have to stop thumb-typing and calling out for pizza while doing 20 in the fast lane. In January, they’ll start taking your money. Maybe you’ve already had the following nightmare:

Cop: Sir, please put down the cell phone. Did you hear me? You are in violation of Chapter 484-B of the Nevada Revised Statutes. I’m only going to ask one more time, sir. Please. Put. Down. The. Phone.

You: OK, OK officer—[BING!]—just let me check this text.

Then you wake up in a cold sweat after getting dream-tased. Maybe the tough love is enough to change our behavior. But there’s that niggling problem of brain chemistry. We’ve been trained, like Pavlov’s dogs, to salivate at the bell. A few hundred thousand years of history have taught us to get excited at the arrival of messages from afar. Maybe the enemy is coming! Or gods on sailboats. When Pheidippides ran 25 miles to tell the Athenians about the big victory, invent the marathon and create the Nike brand, all before dropping dead, folks wanted to see him right away.

Back then, news meant big news. Now it means Facebook has altered your profile page again, and just wanted to let you know about all the exciting changes! But our bodies still react with the same kind of visceral urgency.

So, in the classic spirit of addiction intervention, we propose the following seven steps to a hands-free future. It’s not a 12-step program, but it’s almost two-thirds of one.

1. Turn off your phone before you get into the car.

2. Leave it off.

3. Do not think to yourself, “I wonder who is calling and texting me. Maybe something interesting is happening and I am missing it.” If you think such thoughts, you are at risk of relapse at the long signal at Tropicana and Paradise. You’ll turn on the phone “just to check,” the light will turn green, and you’ll be telling your Facebook peeps how much you hate the new format when you barrel into the back of an exterminator’s truck at Trop and Spencer. Then you will get tased.

4. Should you, despite our best advice, think such thoughts, we are here to help. Call us.

5. Wait, scratch that last one.

6. Remember what life was like before cell phones, when nothing was so urgent that it couldn’t wait until you got to the office. A feeling of calm will sweep over you. Roll down the windows, turn up the radio and drive.

7. If you are too young to remember such a world, we’re sorry. You’re screwed.

The first fine is $50.

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