An Open Letter to the Person Texting Behind the Wheel.
I noticed you. I realized you slowed down suddenly, and weaved ever so slightly. We all know now what that means. Sure enough, as I pulled next to you, you were texting. I watched you, and stayed next to you. For 10 seconds. The entire way down that hill, you had your face lowered, eyes off the road, counting on your peripheral vision and youthful confidence that you would be OK.
I honked my horn, and you looked up, startled. I shook my head at you in reproach, and you looked at me like I was an absolute asshole.
No, young man, I just wanted to remind you of something. The road is more important than whatever is happening on that phone, unless your significant other just gave birth…and then I still want you to cheer but lay your fucking phone down and wait to text her back until you can pull over. Safely.
I wanted you to stop at the gas station, or at the supermarket, so I could tell you something. You didn’t, so here is what I wanted to say.
You don’t know me, but I’m going to tell you something important, something lifechanging, because if you were my son, I’d want someone to do this for me. Look, I know I’m a stranger, but I’m going to start with this sentence: “I love you.”
Now don't go all weird, there’s more than one reason for me to say that. First, you’re a person, like me, and I honor your place in this world and the potential you bear for awesomeness. Second, I’m saying it for your parents, siblings, significant other, and future children. They love you, or did, or will. I’m old enough to be your father, so please, let me give you a wee bit of fatherly advice.
It takes just one moment of inattention to die.
All it takes is someone running a light, swerving to avoid a deer, slamming the brakes because a wine bottle exploded, having a blowout, crossing the median toward you, or any of a million other crazy things that require us to keep our eyes on the road at 50mph. At 50, if you hit a stationary object, you could fucking die. Like that semi truck 3 cars ahead? In 10 seconds, if he’d come to a dead stop…you would have too.
I don’t care if you’re Mario Andretti…what do you mean "who is that"? Never mind, I get that I’m old to you. OK, I don’t care if you’re Danica Patrick, a race car driver is good because they pay attention. They're engaged in the act of driving.
But whatever was on that phone was more important to you than your safety, and the safety of everyone around you. Look, son, driving is a privilege, and a contract among all of us that we will watch out for each other. A lot of people break that contract, and we call them assholes. Please, son, don’t be an asshole.
You might accept the responsibility for your own life and death, and even for the hole your loss would leave in the rest of us. That’s brave of you. But let me ask you this: if a pedestrian had started across the road in front of you, perhaps paying more attention to their phone, would you have seen them? Or would you have just become an accidental killer? That’s a pain you don’t want, and one that takes only an instant to arrive. You are young, and likely have great reflexes…but those reflexes require you to look out the windshield, not at your smartphone screen.
And did I mention that it’s illegal here? If I’d been a cop, you’d have been saving up the dollar bills for your court costs, my boy.
Please, son, put the goddamn thing down. Leave it there. If you absolutely must look at it, please…wait for the red light. You were 26 or so seconds away from a minute wait at that light. Kid, I hate that light. Were those 10 seconds of distraction so important that they couldn’t wait that long? No, son, of course they weren’t.
I’ve gotten angry plenty of times at people texting on the road. Today, my boy, you didn’t piss me off. You scared the everloving shit out of me. We could have lost you today. I can’t tell you how happy I am we didn’t. Now please, please, don’t text behind the wheel. It’s truly every bit as dangerous as Russian Roulette.
Remember, young man, that we love you. Oh, and clean your room, OK? It builds character.