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The Man Who Hated Cell Phones

David Wood was driving through Kansas when he finally exploded against the cell phone industrial complex.

As a modern American--a consumer affairs writer, no less--he'd carried a cell phone everywhere. "It never quit ringing," explained David, who lives in the midwest. (He said his work for ConsumerAffairs.com precludes him telling me exactly where he lives, lest some of the companies he exposes try to track him down.) "One day I pulled up to a stop sign and I threw that thing as hard as I could out the window and busted it on the stop sign. And it fell into the weeds and I guess it's still there to this day."

David Wood hates cell phones. He hates them so much that he started a Web site a couple of years ago called MyCellPhoneIsKillingMe. It's a compendium of as much anti-cell phone material as he can gather. Cell phone companies out to rip you off? Your Razr giving you cancer? Strangers listening in on your calls or tracking your location via your Blackberry? It's all there on his site.

But what bothers David the most is people so wrapped up in their own little cell phone bubbles that they're incapable of safely driving--or even walking. He was at a mall in Oklahoma recently when a teenage girl strolled right into him. "And I know it was a 20-foot walk that she covered and I didn't move. I thought 'I'm not moving this time.' She never lifted her head and she went right into my chest. I knew it was coming. The thing is, after it happened she looked at me like 'You've interrupted my phone call.'"


America, David says, is in trouble. "When I can't walk through a store without a bunch of zombies staring at something they're holding like a pacifier, then I look at them and say 'You've got a problem. Is your life so empty that you're staring at this thing constantly?' ... These people are addicted."

Fine, David, but isn't it too late? Haven't we reached the point where cell phones are a ubiquitous part of our lives, something we can't live without? "We lived 5,000 years without them," he snarls.

David sees cell phone perfidy everywhere, but nowhere is it more dangerous than on the roads. "Everybody's having to change their driving style to make up for these people who have no idea how they're driving. They have no idea they're taking way longer to leave a stoplight, way longer to get into the flow of traffic."

And, occasionally, they kill somebody. A section on David's web site lists people killed or injured in cell phone-related accidents.

Maybe it's a generational thing, I suggest. Most teens today think it's natural to be connected to a cell phone 24/7. What would he be doing if he was 16 now instead of 46, I asked. "If I was 16 I'd be dead. I remember how I drove at 16. If you had put a phone in my hands at 16 I would have had an accident."

David thinks things won't change until distracted driving is treated like drunk driving: something socially unacceptable. For now, he's skeptical that the calls people take on their phones are really all that important.

"Define important," he says. "That's literally what I want to ask them. Where's the line on important if you are knowingly doing something that puts your life in danger, puts my life in danger, puts your property and puts both of our insurance rates in danger. Now, define an important call. Is important 'What do you want to eat for dinner?' Is important 'What time is your ball game?' Or is important 'Your mother's just had a heart attack. We need you to go'? There are true important emergencies. If your call's that important, get off the road. Get off of the damn road."

By the way, David does still use a cell phone occasionally. He gets a pre-paid one and says he uses it only for emergencies and never while driving. And here's a bit of irony: Because the software that automatically shovels ads onto David's web sites "reads" the words there and hunts for appropriate ads, most of the ads are for... cell phones.

By John Kelly  |  August 25, 2009; 9:00 AM ET
 
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Comments

I agree with David Wood wholeheartedly. Not only is driving while phone very dangerous, it's annoying as hell to be surrounded by people yapping away on them. Try sitting on a commuter bus with 4-5 people on cell phones sitting around you. We can all hear their conversations. Most are not so important they can't wait until they get home. The entire bus once heard an exchange about a personnel background investigation of a job applicant at the FBI. Then there's the one who gives a mile-by-mile progress report on the trip home. Or the popular 'Do you want me to pick something up for dinner?' How did you people communicate before cell phones? I try to catch up on reading on the ride home and I certainly hope my reading doesn't annoy you. Your hell phone conversations annoy me to no end.

Posted by: Baltimore11 | August 25, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

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