Monday, June 23, 2008

Put Down The !@¢%&^# Phone!

I don't know about you, but I for one will be very happy when California's hands-free cell phone law finally takes effect on July 1st.

Whether it's that driver in the fast lane of the 101 yakking away and oblivious to the fact that everyone behind him is pulling around to pass him or that guy making a right turn while talking to his stockbroker and cutting off pedestrians about to step off the curb, there's nothing more exasperating than an encounter with a multitasking driver.

Given the number of 140-pound soccer moms I've seen palming the steering wheels of 4000-pound SUVs with one hand while holding a cell phone to their ear with the other, I'd contend there are more weapons of mass destruction roaming the streets of Santa Barbara then were ever to be found in Iraq.

And given the number of people behind the wheel I see still holding or cradling cell phones while they drive, there are a lot of you out there who are going to be quitting the talking-while-driving habit "cold turkey" when next Tuesday rolls around.

Don't let that $20 maximum fine for violating the hands-free law fool you. By the time "penalty assessments" and other court fees are tacked on, getting pulled over and ticketed for holding a cell phone to your ear while driving will actually cost you nearly 100 bucks.

I'll readily admit that I've been guilty of holding a cell phone while driving myself. About a month ago, I vowed not to make or answer phone calls in the car unless I had my earpiece plugged in. I was pretty good about it, too. If I didn't have my earpiece plugged in, I simply didn't answer the phone and let the call go to voicemail.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to get a bluetooth speaker and microphonethat clips to the sun visor on my car. It works very well. Now I don't even have to take the phone out of my pocket when I get behind the wheel. If a call comes in while I'm driving, I simply hit the answer button on the visor speaker with my finger. No one knows I'm driving and talking unless I tell them.

Of course, freeing up both hands for driving only solves part of the problem. Most experts agree that driving while talking on the phone is distracting regardless of whether both hands are free.

But a "though shalt not talk on the cell phone while driving" law would be nearly impossible to enforce, which is probably why the legislature hasn't imposed a total ban on drivers using cell phones.

The one thing I find every bit as annoying as people driving with one hand while holding a cell phone to their ear with the other is people loudly talking on their cell phones in public places. A whole generation of Chatty Cathys and Garrulous Gregs has grown up not knowing what a phone booth is.

It may be alright with you, but the last thing I want to put up with while I'm out enjoying my morning coffee and newspaper or trying to enjoy a meal at a nice restaurant is the guy or gal at the next table (or sometimes even several tables away) jabbering on their cell phone. If I want to listen the person next to me carry on business, I'll go into the office and sit in a cubicle and get paid for it.

Cell phone conversations in restaurants, like noisy children and good intentions, should all be carried out immediately.

* * *

My prediction that Wendy McCaw's News-Press wouldn't cover last week's hearing in the Rob Lowe case proved to be wrong. Friday's paper carried an article running under Scott Steepleton's byline giving an account of the outcome of the hearing.

I can tell you, though, that I didn't see Steepleton in the courtroom during the hearing. His article also stated that Lowe's attorney, Stanton Stein, couldn't be reached for a comment.

Stein was in the hallway outside the courtroom after the hearing, answering every question thrown at him, which would seem to indicate that Steepleton wasn't there in person to report on the hearing. That raises the question: what was the source of his information for the story? Most news articles would say whose reporting they relied upon. Steepleton clearly didn't. What do you think the chances are he got his info from a local blog?

Surprisingly, the sloppiest reporting on the Lowe hearing came from the Independent. An article posted on its website late Friday had very little information, and one fact it cited, that arguments will be heard on one of the issues in the case on June 30, was flat out wrong. June 30 is the deadline for nanny Jessica Gibson's attorneys to file an amended complaint that cures the defects in their retaliation claim. The next court hearing will be July 10.

* * *

My favorite collection of photos that I've seen so far from Saturday's Summer Solstice Parade can be found here.

* * *

The Comeback Kid? A reader called my attention to the following excerpt from an article that appeared in Saturday's Daily Sound:

Two weeks ago, Lawrence Bond, who underwent quintuple bypass surgery in 1995 after dropping dead in the middle of the street, checked himself into Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital after experiencing a tingling sensation near his heart.

And here I was thinking that the Celtics overcoming that 24-point lead the Lakers had in game four of the NBA Finals was the greatest comeback of the last 20 years.