Monday, August 03, 2009

What's with all the Thumb Work?

Among the many sights seen during my recent vacation in Los Angeles and New York City, were countless texters. They texted in the airport and the food court in the mall. They texted in Macy’s and Starbuck’s, in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They texted while they walked and while they drove.

At the least, it’s annoying to find yourself slowing down in traffic because some twit is tweeting on his or her blackberry—and driving 20 to 50 percent below the posted speed limit.

Or to watch as some poor sales person is trying to serve a texter. Even though the texter has invested time in waiting for the service, he or she is usually so engaged in the Blackberry or iPhone conversation that he has no attention for the person who’s trying to help him.

At the most, it’s downright frightening to think of what could happen. OK—the girl who was foolish enough to tweet on laptop in the bathtub—and plug it in for extra power—was probably an exception. But what about the girl in Toronto who got run over while texting, or the train conductors in California and Boston who were too busy texting to attend to the safety of the passengers in their care. And let’s not forget the recent research suggesting the dangers caused by cell phones in cars.

I know; I sound like an old fogey. But I have a right.

And it’s not because I’m approaching that age.

It’s because I’m increasingly the person who’s behind the texter and cell phone user who’s not only annoying the crap out of me, but also risking his or her own life and the life of those around him or her.

And what for? Multitasking and getting more things done? The research on multitasking is starting to come in and it’s not validating the practice.

To be honest, I don’t know what’s so urgent that we have to communicate with all of these people all of the time. All I can think of is a Seinfeld card I bought years ago, saying something to the effect, “The reason for the cell phone, fax, e-mail, and pager is that we have nothing to talk about, but we have to do so right away.”

To see:
• A recent New York Times editorial about the dangers of driving while using cell phones, visit
• A summary of research about multi-tasking, visit

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