You Can’t Walk and Chew Gum

In the local news this week, we learned Amy Wilson and her newborn – residents of our fair city – are in critical condition in a Salt Lake City hospital as victims of a head-on collision. Wilson and her newborn suffer brain injuries as they struggle to survive, while two of three teenagers from the at-fault car are dead. The heartbreaking interview with Wilson’s husband here in Colorado included loss of words as he tried to reconcile the happiness of a birth with the tragedy of the accident.

My reaction to this story – besides donating to the “Amy and Baby Wilson Support” GoFundMe campaign – was the teenagers must have been texting at the wheel.  I wonder if they even left skid marks.  Prayers be with them, Amy Wilson and her newborn will survive and their injuries will be short-lived.  But the same cannot be said for the kids in the other car.  As it turns out they were street-racing when they jumped the median.  They might as well have been texting.

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The victims on both sides of this accident will join the rising morbid statistics tied to “distracted driving”, which includes use of smartphones. We just can’t put them down, even with risk of life staring us in the face.  By no coincidence, the Wall Street Journal published an article this week about rising insurance rates tied to use of smartphones while driving.  36% of State Farm customers admitted to texting while driving, up 5% from five years earlier.  20% admitted to taking a photo while driving; another 10% take videos.  In those same five years smartphone ownership among drivers increased from 50% to 90%.

I will never understand the urgency to check a text while driving.   Apparently I’m not as addicted as most.  If I’m “late” in responding to a message, I can’t think of a better excuse than “I was behind the wheel”. When my phone rings or a text message dings, I will find a safe place to pull over if I can.  More often I’m not going to answer until I get where I’m going.

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Perhaps I’m more motivated than most, because my son caused a distracted driving accident several years ago in high school.  As he fiddled with the car stereo leaving campus, he braked too late when he saw the red light in front of him, causing a chain-reaction fender-bender involving five cars.  Thankfully no one was hurt, but even at school-zone speeds my son caused a lot of damage.  Because of that incident I chastise my children any time I receive a text from them and realize they are driving.

Technology is trying to improve things, of course.  Voice-activated control is a lot better than it was just a few years ago.  But we’re not there yet.  Until it is commonplace to conduct a stream of communication from start to finish hands-free, the senseless accidents – and the insurance rates – will continue to rise.  Even if you perfect the technology, you still have the distraction.

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Sure, you can walk and chew gum at the same time, but not so texting and driving.  I looked at the photo above and thought, “what if you saw that through the windshield of the car coming towards you?”

The next time you’re on the road and you get that familiar ding, just keep going where you’re going.  No matter the message, it’s infinitely less important than the safety of those around you.

Planed English

Have you ever listened to a friend or family member talk, and you realize you just enjoy listening to them regardless of what they’re talking about? Why does this happen? What gets the credit for your undivided attention? I would venture to say your friend or family member has a personal command of the English language. That is, you are drawn to this person’s unique subset of the hundreds of thousands of words available to them. He or she can string together words in a way that makes you smile or laugh, or even react the particular way they would want you to. They speak with fluency and aptness. They speak with eloquence.

Today’s generation does not speak with eloquence. Thanks to the convenience of email and text, in fact they hardly speak at all. My children have a habit of telling me “they spoke to so and so” and when pressed, I realize they’re referring to texting. The phone calls of my generation have become the texts of theirs. Even email is beginning to take a back seat to instant messaging.

Whatever the medium, today’s conversations have been reduced to a minimum of words, or not even words at all! Incomplete sentences. Acronyms (i.e. LOL). Emoticons. Hashtags. It might as well be its own language. Are we really intent on leaving “Queen’s” English in the rear-view mirror, for something not even qualifying as “plain” English?

Most of what we see and do and experience can be summed up in a few words. My endeavor with this blog is to bring a single, elegant word to the table, back it up with a meaningful moment or story in my life, and send you away thinking how you might use that word more often in your everyday conversations. We all have something to say. But can we say it in a way that captivates and inspires? Can we say it with eloquence?

Join me on this journey, won’t you? Let me show you life in a word.