Proofreading While Driving

I dropped my iPhone one too many times last night, and it stopped working.

Then, this morning, something unusual happened: instead of doing what I’d normally do — run out first thing and get the phone fixed or replaced as if my ability to eat, sleep and shit depended on having a functioning cellphone — I decided to procrastinate.

First, I realized I could do every single thing I needed from a phone from my computer, primarily having access to my entire music library and the ability to text anyone with iMessage. For non-Apple users, email, Skype, Twitter or Facebook would have to suffice.

Secondly, it turns out there are very few urgent matters that need my attention in the form of an active phone call and equally few that require an instant text response.

When it came time to run a couple of errands, I loaded up a bag full of CDs for the car to substitute for my Spotify library and proceeded to hit the road with no precise idea of traffic conditions or ETA!

Only took three-and-a-half songs from the self-titled Funkadelic album to get from home to my cannabis dispensary in Malibu and about half of Soundbombing I to get back. When I did hit traffic in Malibu, I didn’t get anxious for not having a phone to thumb through and instead just enjoyed the scenery and the pace of the sun setting over the coast. I thought to myself, this is what a ride up PCH must have felt like back in 1993! Or 1973 for that matter.

There was a wait at the dispensary, and the other two patients in the waiting room were both affixed to their phones. Usually, I’d feel anxiety in this spot, not having a screen of my own to latch my eyes upon, but by this point in my day I think I was feeling less anxious overall. I occupied my time flipping through the first issue of Marley Natural Magazine, an $18 tome which looks sort of like a hybrid of High Times and the type of boutique luxury magazine you see all over Malibu.

On my way home, I realized I was paying full attention to the road. It sounds absurd for that to be a rare thing, but I challenge the reader to identify the last time you actually spent an entire ride to and from the store with both hands on the wheel and both eyes exclusively on the road. Turns out with those two conditions met, you can drive faster and more safely.

Now, as I used to joke, “the problem isn’t texting and driving — it’s proofreading and driving,” because even as aware as I try to be regarding my safety on the road, I know I wind up diverting way too much attention to my phone, and there is an insidious aspect to its very presence. It may start as innocuously as peering at Waze and wind up with my having a full on text discussion or reading a thread on Twitter.

Also worth noting, “I’m no Luddite” nor am I pointlessly arguing for us to put down our phones, although 1) The ubiquity of cellphones has affected everything from our ability to safely walk down the street to the basics of how we communicate and 2) I think collectively we are overwhelmed with information. Modulating cellphone use makes the signal-to-noise ratio more manageable and allows us to be more “present.”

Oh but I do love my phone, a pocket-sized computer guiding me throughout each day, a true and constant resource to rely on. I love how it enables endless possibilities with previously unimaginable efficiency. I enjoy the ability to book a flight, order something from eBay, track its arrival on the USPS app, record a TV show on my DVR while I’m out playing poker and reading a New Yorker article about the show. I want my Spotify library offline and everywhere I go AND I need Tidal for the latest exclusive Jay Z remix verse and the podcast app and and and and…BUT…I don’t really need all of it all of the time.

In any case, I might extend this experiment and not go out and get my phone fixed just yet.