Let’s Talk about Texts.

It’s likely that many college towns in the States have one thing in common: herds of bicyclists under the impression that the normal rules of death don’t apply to them, protected by a force field that deflects danger, an invisible shield under which they can do any number of things at zero risk.

I’m thinking of the guy we often see around downtown Tempe, riding his bike, holding an umbrella – open, over his head! – and texting. No hands on the bike as he wobbles slowly along in oblivion. But hey… at least his umbrella’s protecting him from the harmful rays of the sun! He’s a comical sight, but he’s a disaster waiting to happen, and he makes me nervous. We call him the Umbrella Guy.

People do funny things while operating their various modes of personal transportation. I once saw a woman knitting while driving, and I knew someone who admitted to polishing her toenails while driving. I’ve seen people eating breakfast, drinking coffee and reading newspapers spread out over the steering wheel – on the freeway, no less. During one of several Defensive Driving courses I’d taken (I have a history of lead foot and was caught on camera several times – though one of those was an actual speed trap), the instructor cited a statistic saying that the documented “number one cause” of inattention-related accidents on the road is “(gender) men who are (activity) eating.” Surprise! Not people falling asleep. Not women putting on makeup. Men, eating. The image accompanying that part of the presentation showed a guy behind the wheel holding a big, messy burger in one hand and fries in the other, with a drink between his thighs.

That was something like six-seven years ago, and I’d bet the statistics are different now. I’d bet the number one cause of inattention-related road accidents now is texting, and it’s gender-irrelevant. Every day, I see people all over the place walking across streets, cycling, skateboarding and driving while texting, and I’m surprised that there aren’t more casualties.

Not that I’m above anyone for my own texting behavior, mind you. I sometimes text while walking, and it does happen every once and a while that there’s a street to cross while I’m doing it, though I try to be aware and keep it at a minimum. The biggest hazard I encounter while texting is more to my pride than to my person. I’m that texter who, due to my own carelessness, sends text messages to the wrong people… and this is how we arrive at Embarrassing Story Tuesday. It’s been a while!

Back in May, I helped to coordinate an academic competition at an event showcasing the work of students in our department. During the competition, Callaghan was en route from central Phoenix, contacting me periodically to tell me where he was so I could advise him on where to go, where to park, etc. (This was during commencement, and it was a clusterf*ck all around the campus.) Meanwhile, our faculty coordinator for the competition, who was sitting in the back of the large room – I was at the front of the room – texted me regarding something technical, and with my attention fragmented in the confusion of keeping up with the competitors and the judges and the score sheets and incoming texts and calls from Callaghan, whose goal was to let me know when he’d arrived so I could point him in the right direction, I accidentally sent some texts meant for Callaghan to the professor.

Because Callaghan called, and I couldn’t answer. Because the last text I’d sent was to the professor, and I forgot to switch back to my text exchange with Callaghan before texting him. I was beyond mortified when I saw that I’d sent the messages to the professor, who, incidentally, was the assistant director of my department at the time. I called him “Baby,” and I didn’t realize my gaffe until he sneezed and I went to text “bless you” to him.


I wanted to crawl under the table, I was so embarrassed. Moral of the story: it’s not always a good idea to do personal things while working in certain fast-paced, chaotic situations, even if it’s just trying to communicate logistical information to family members.

On that note, I’m off to get ready for work. Have a great Tuesday, All!

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