Opinion

Put down the phone, turn up the volume

Imagine you’re trapped in an enclosed space for an extended period of time, performing an activity that, for the most part, requires little conscious engagement. In your pocket sits a singular source of entertainment. Using it is not in your best interest, but it’s your only defense against hopeless, soul-sucking boredom, so it’s worth it.

The above scenario describes, for many people, the experience of sitting in a car in slow-moving traffic or on a low-speed drive. But the first anniversary of Florida’s official texting and driving ban, coming up in October, presents a great opportunity to re-evaluate driving habits. If you really think a cell phone is the only source of entertainment available in a car, you haven’t put enough thought into how to best preserve your life.

A top-down view of a road depicts rows and rows of seemingly independent spheres of existence, like tiny universes. Nowadays, of course, with a data plan, a person can sit inside an automobile and maintain a connection to thousands of people at once. But does having your own private universe really sound that bad?

There will always be people trying to sink their fingers into your life, scrambling for chunks of your time. A car provides an incontestable reason to shut them all out. Even as Florida’s ban goes largely ignored, “I was driving” still serves as a valid, even respectable, excuse for missing a fragment of communication.

Everyone has a list of things they supposedly never have time to do. But in a car, faced with half an hour or an hour of unscheduled time, they sigh, tap their fingers on the steering wheel in frustration, and pour out streams of frivolous messages or browse the Internet when they could be dedicating themselves to the items on that list.

Take advantage of that by dedicating your time in the car to your own needs. Enjoy your downtime by turning on the radio and singing along. If pop music makes you shudder and cringe, come prepared. Enter the car with a playlist, or CD, of songs you actually like so you don’t have to depend on the radio.

You can also apply yourself to learning something new. Download podcasts that will teach you a new language. Listen to RadioLab and learn what makes cities tick. Turn on the news and inform yourself about current events.

Or you can use the time to get caught up on things you have to do anyway. You shouldn’t try to write an English paper against your steering wheel, but there’s a chance you can listen to the audio version of the book assigned for class. If you’re preparing for an oral exam, record yourself going through the presentation and play it back on your car’s sound system.

Nobody likes to be stuck in traffic, but it isn’t usually something in a person’s control. What you can control, however, is how you use that time, and with a bit of thought, you can easily avoid breaking the law and putting yourself, and others, in danger.

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.

September 14, 2014

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The Miami Hurricane


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