Friday, April 28, 2006

"Watch Out For That One, Mom ... "

"She's got a phone!"

My son, on observing the driver of one of the cars approaching a four-way stop.

Sure enough, she almost didn't stop, and then proceeded to make her turn out of order, threatening to take out two pedestrians in the process.

"Aren't you glad I warned you?" he asked.

Well, yes, actually.

If it's that clear to a not quite 6-year-old that cell phones and competent driving don't mix, what's wrong with all of these Pavlovian adults for whom sticking a key in an ignition sets off an apparently irresistible urge to glue a phone to an ear?

This was not isolated incident on the part of my son, that budding backseat driver and, no doubt, school crossing guard. (Not to mention born gearhead, like his dad; once, just before turning three, he insisted that my husband go outside and show him the mechanical difference between front-wheel, rear-wheel and all-wheel drive vehicles; in the same time span, he dragged me part way down a parking-lot aisle to point out to a fellow shopper that he had a low tire. But I digress, obnoxiously proud-mama style.) On more than one occasion, he's asked if I shouldn't beep at someone too engrossed in chatting to note that the green arrow has been activated. The answer, of course, is no: I'm not sure it's a good idea to introduce any more aural stimulation into the situation when dealing with people like this. Plus, it's rude.

I imagine my son's precocious wariness has been honed by his daily observations in the small parking lot of his private school, where those with the biggest, most aggressive and aggressively expensive vehicles seem to be both the most addicted to chatting-while-driving and the least competent drivers. (And parkers, for that matter: I'd have to work to encroach on three parking spaces in one fell swoop, but for at least one woman there, it's apparently second nature.)

He even knows which vehicles next to which it's best not to park, primarily because addictive cell-phone use appears also to interfere with the ability to open doors without threatening to ding other vehicles, or, worse, cut off hapless pedestrians who are already occupying the relevant physical space.

Lest you think I'm raising an insufferable snot, which I assure you I'm not, my son does all this in matter-of-fact good humor. Apparently, he views phone-addicted drivers as just one of those daily hazards in life for which he must watch out, like unfamiliar stray dogs or broken glass on the pavement or strangers bearing gifts.

All of this is by waying of saying: What he said.