By Laura Moore
I curbed my addiction.
Unfortunately, that curbing was literal and not figurative.
It would have been much more productive, and far less expensive, had I gotten myself to the point where I actually put away the $800 piece of technology when I wasn't using it.
Instead, I set it on the top of our stroller while I was talking on my husband's phone. When he returned from a cart parked along one of the Downtown Disney paths and reached to pull the shade over our son, that carelessly placed phone went smashing into the curb, meeting its untimely demise.
My sister-in-law was voicing her thoughts about when and where we should meet for our next day departure to the beach, and I hardly heard anything that came out of her mouth. My hubby reached down to get the phone as she shared very important information about when we could check in and what there was to do for kids under four, but it sounded like white noise in my ears. When he flipped over my beloved hunk-of-instant-connection, I saw shards of glass shimmering in the waning ribbons of dusk.
It was only five months old.
And we were on vacation without our camera.
This was devastating.
And yet it wasn't.
Sure, I might not have sent as many updates to family members or taken as many pictures, but I was present for a whole heck of a lot more moments. I wasn't passing time by checking for emails or text messages. I wasn't trolling through my Facebook and Twitter feeds looking at other people's vacations, graduations or parties, or linking to articles they found fascinating. I wasn't looking up the answers to questions scrolling through my over-stimulated, ADD brain.
I was watching my little Z laugh and reach out to touch every single person within his tiny arm's reach. I was watching him stir up the crowd with his giggles and grins, his open-mouth, tongue-resting-across-his-two-bottom-teeth smile. I was watching him soak in the sites: the life-sized Lego Loch Ness Monster cresting the water, the ice cream cups dripping from the sides, the kids tugging on their parent's shirts, the dinosaurs roaring inside restaurants, the performers galloping across the stage. I was peeking around the shade more often to look at him, to smile at him, to "beep" his nose and tickle his toes, and ask him what he thinks.
See, a strange thing happens when you have to decide whether or not a phone call, a text message or a social media search is worth a sharp slice across your cheek or a sliver in the pad of your finger. Non-urgent interactions suddenly seem less important, and the urge to snap-out-of-the-present-in-an-effort-to-preserve-a-moment suddenly feel far less enticing.
Instead, you choose to live. To laugh. To feel experiences from beginning to end. You no longer feel the nagging need to interrupt them.
You assume emergencies will funnel over to your companion.
You look up and engage with the world.
Following the death of my phone screen, I lived free and clear of hand-held distraction for five days, turning it on occasionally to check messages and then turning it off again to avoid losing pieces of glass. I used my husband's phone for fewer than a handful of correspondences with my sister-in-law when little Z was napping and she was trying to figure out if we could meet.
But other than that, I just lived. And though I have few pictures to show for it, I have a fuller heart.
Now that I'm back, hopefully, I'll be able to get it fixed, as communicating is rather important. But I hope even more that I'll remember to leave it on the table when I'm playing with my son. And leave it in my purse when I am driving. And leave it out of arm's reach when I'm eating dinner with my husband. I hope I'll start people watching again, that I'll return to my habit of striking up conversations with strangers and giggling at awkward bends of time. I hope I'll once again find myself noticing the obscurities and the joys and the humor that is always unfolding around me if I'd only look up.
In short, I hope that once I get all of the pieces smoothed out and all of the jagged lines smoothed away, I will be able to see as clearly as my screen can.
By Laura Moore
When I see an injustice, something inside of me snaps.
I can feel a physical response immediately: my face heats up, adrenaline diffuses throughout my body, and an insatiable urge to intervene overtakes my brain.
Even when I should keep my mouth shut, I can't.
Something inside of me is wired to speak up, to speak out, to take some sort of action to help a person who has been wronged, even if it is none of my business.
Unfortunately, this impulse can often lead to post-good-samaritan regret when the offender snaps back, or the victim defends the offender, or I simply realize it was a offense that didn't deserve the attention. Sometimes it is just not my place to scold someone who skips in front of another person in line, or intentionally drives the wrong way down the street, or calls someone a terrible name.
Sometimes, I need to let it go.
But at other times, speaking up--even if you don't have all of the facts--still seems like the right thing to do.
A few years ago, when I was working as a server in a restaurant in the Short North, I looked across the street and witnessed a man thrust a woman against a brick wall, hold her up off the ground and proceed to scream at her. I called 9-1-1 immediately and the police were there in minutes. When the cops confronted the couple though, the woman claimed they were "playing," so the officers let them both go and everyone involved seemed pretty annoyed that I notified authorities.
As I watched the couple depart--and the police write up the report--I felt a mixed bag of emotions. I worried--for a second--that perhaps I overstepped the line by picking up the phone, but even now, looking back, at no point did the man's actions seem playful, and every time I consider the woman's defense, it seems borne of fear rather than truth. So even if I did over step the line by thrusting myself into a situation that didn't involve me, I still contend it was the right thing to do; I still contend that over-stepping was the better mistake to make.
I suppose I hope I will feel the same way--regardless of how it turns out--each time I look back at what happened last Friday. While trying to buckle my son into his carseat, I heard a loud crash, leaned out to investigate, and saw that an SUV had slammed into the sedan parked behind him. My first instinct was to snap a picture, but when the driver turned around and made eye contact with me, I decided to lean back into the car instead. I thought for sure he'd own up to his crime and leave a note, but when I saw him driving past my window a few seconds later, I realized he was fleeing the scene.
I tried to steady my phone with the hand that wasn't holding my baby, but my fingers were too slow; the man got away.
Everything inside me wanted to scream.
It was entirely unfair. It was immoral. It was unexpected, even though I suppose I should have expected it.
I wanted to vomit.
Once it all registered, I grabbed my baby, exited my car and carried him over to the sedan. Even though deep down I knew I would find nothing, I still hoped there would be a note; I still believed in human decency. When I saw nothing but damage, I felt nauseated imagining the owner of the car walking outside and realizing he or she would begin the weekend as the unfortunate victim of a hit-and-run.
I ran back into the daycare center to see if they had a security camera and to report the incident to the administrator. Unfortunately, their cameras only captured images of who walked in and out of the door, not who drove into their lot, so the only thing we could really do was wait for the owner of the sedan to come outside so we could explain what happened. He emerged a short time later, and as soon as I passed along what I had seen, I left to feed my son.
The police called later that evening and asked me to email a follow up statement. I agreed, of course, and as I sat at the computer and typed, I felt heat filling my chest just thinking about the man who got away, thinking about my decision not to take that initial picture, thinking about every last detail of the crash. I wondered whether or not the man spent even one second reflecting on his crime, worrying about the victim, or feeling guilty about his actions. I wondered what he told his child who had to have been jarred from the collision, and whether or not he had any anxiety about me--the witness--speaking up, or if he just assumed he'd get away with it, if he assumed he could bury his head in the sand and I would just turn the other way.
Regardless of what he did or didn't think though, the following Monday when I returned to the daycare center, I saw what I believed to be his SUV sitting there, roughly 50 feet from where the accident occurred a few days before. The moment I spotted it, I stopped in the middle of the round-a-bout drive, put my car in park, pulled out my camera, and snapped a photograph of the back: license plate, damaged bumper and all. Seconds after I took the picture, the man who owned the car walked through the doors, carrying his daughter, and for a brief instant, I made eye contact with him.
He greatly resembled the driver I had seen the previous Friday, and as we connected, I felt his unease. I felt his discomfort. I felt like he recognized me, but I didn't know if that was real, or if it seemed that way because I wanted it to, because I wanted to believe that even if he didn't do the right thing--he at least understood his crime, he at least felt bad for what he had done--and seeing me reminded him of the smear he smudged on the timeline of his life.
But I suppose another part of me doubted my instincts. Another part of me feared the one percent uncertainty that I felt. Another part of me worried that by turning him in--when I was only 99% sure--I could potentially create a horrible situation for an innocent man. I thought it was him--I really did--but I wasn't positive. How could I be? I saw him from two cars away.
As I considered all of this, the man strapped his daughter into his car, and I pulled around, parked, and collected myself. He drove past me, and turned out of the lot, but I continued to sit there, processing, reviewing, analyzing. I continued wondering what made the driver who hit that car let go, what made him leave; and I thought about what made me hold on, what made me stay.
And there, in my mind as I processed it all, I continued seeing the car that got hit, and the world I've given my son. I continued seeing two things I wanted to be better than they are today. I continued hoping that I would be strong enough to teach my little one to speak up--to speak out--when he has something to say, when his words could help authorities do the right thing.
And so even though I was nervous about accusing that man of something I was pretty sure--but not positive--he did, I pulled up the image anyway. I typed up the note. And I gave someone else the power to figure it out.
By Laura Moore
I'm pretty sure most of us aren't trying to be self-centered jerks. We're not aiming to make daily activities infinitely more dangerous, and we're not hoping to do our part to increase morbidity statistics.
Most of us--I'd like to believe--are just trying to get by. We're trying to move from point A to point B, and as we traverse that often chaotic road, we are tackling as many things as possible: answering emails, texts and phone calls on the fly, eating lunch between stop lights, trying to figure out what our kids are doing in the backseat.
But as seemingly innocent as it seems
to do those things behind the wheel of a car, the truth is: multitasking while driving is dangerous. And stupid. And we need to stop.
Like the rest of America, I've heard this over-stated statement a thousand times, and despite agreeing with the logic, time and time again, I have defied it. For years, I have multi-tasked behind the wheel of my car. I've checked my phone at stop lights, I've glanced over at the Maps app while moving, I've nibbled on a sandwich, and I've cleaned up piping hot Starbucks drips when I should have been focused on the road beneath my wheels.
This past Friday, however, I decided to quit.
On my way to the grocery store, I watched a twenty-something guy--driving 40 miles per hour--barrel into an elderly woman sitting at a stop light, behind a line of other cars that had been sitting still for at least as long as it took me to approach the light, turn the corner and drive roughly one hundred feet up the road. Distracted myself, I glanced over when I noticed how fast he was going, and saw him, with his head down, focused on what looked to be his phone, while his car collided square and hard into the woman in front of him. The scene unfolded in slow motion, and as each second ticked past, I hoped harder and harder that he would look up and slam on his breaks.
She jolted forward and back multiple times like a crash test dummy; I wanted to vomit. She was terribly hurt--she had to be--and a surge of pain shot up through my neck just watching her jerk back and forth in the seat. A line of traffic extended for at least a half of a mile behind the man driving his car. There was nowhere for me to pull off and no way I'd reach her if I turned around. So I kept driving: sickened, worried, changed. Seeing that accident forced me to stop and think about the act of driving. It forced me to look through a
different lens. It forced me to realize that whether or not I think about it on a regular basis, each time I turn the ignition, I hold power: real, distinct, scary, awesome power. The act of driving might feel commonplace, but it is a tremendous responsibility to operate a 3,000 pound vehicle, and to accelerate that vehicle to 25, 35, 45, 55, 65 or 75 miles per hour on a road with other vehicles operated by different human beings who may or may not respect the rules in place to keep us all alive. Add distractions to that reality--toss in moments where we pick up our phone, apply our makeup, eat our lunch, turn around to laugh, stare at billboards or erratically cut around someone who has stopped--and you have an even more complicated, scary, dangerous situation. A situation that happens because human beings are driven and stressed and curious. A situation that happens because we decide, in a moment of weakness, that our needs are more important than the safety of others.
I know that most of the time nothing bad happens, and I realize that we live in a world that expects us to be accessible, but I also know that gambling can be a dangerous game. At some point, everyone's luck runs out, and a single lapse of judgment, a single instant of inattention, a single moment of selfishness can ruin absolutely everything. It just doesn't seem like its worth the risk anymore, and so I've decided to stop my multi-tasking ways. I've decided to become a mono-tasker behind the wheel. I've decided to pledge.
And because I want this world to somehow, in some small way, get a little bit safer, I sure as heck hope you will too.
******************************************************************************* The Mono-Tasker Pledge
I vow to: 1. Set aside my phone, food, and other distractions, and focus instead on the asphalt. 2. Respect the weight of a 3,000 pound vehicle. 3. Honor the 6000 people who died last year in distracted driving accidents by learning from their mistakes. 4. Think about the other cars on the road. 5. Pull off and deal with life when it can't wait, and ignore it when it can.