Monday, April 1, 2013

Open Your Eyes

Last week, as I listened to a news report on a study of who text messages while driving a car, I thought of the stunning Spanish movie Abre los Ojos which was remade in English as Vanilla Sky starring Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz (who was in the Spanish original).  I thought the Spanish original was much better than the English remake.  I've suspected that Cruise wanted to do the remake as an excuse to work with Cruz and then hook-up with her.  Well, that's all way in the past and no longer matters.  What matters today is "Open Your Eyes."

Please think about this: when you are concentrating on your electronic gadget, be it a smart phone, tablet, or e-book reader, you are not open to your surrounding environment and what's happening in it.  Your gadget demands your brain and senses, your hands and fingers, and especially, your eyes.  We use our eyes and ears to help us stay safe, to warn us of danger through sounds and sight.  If your eyes are otherwise occupied with your gadget, they are not surveying the surrounding environment -- a busy freeway or city street, a crowded sidewalk, or even the beauty of a city park.  You are missing what's happening all around you in that moment, in real time, in reality.

Inappropriate cell phone usage in public spaces is a pet peeve of mine.  It is the ultimate rudeness in my book.  Right now in our culture, it seems to be a badge of importance and power to be plugged in 24/7, to never turn off the gadgets, to read texts and reply no matter whether you're in a meeting or eating lunch with friends, to take all calls no matter when they ring you.  Of course, all this is doing is this: information overload, psychic and emotional stress, and a life lived through gadgets rather than by being completely present in the place and moment in real time and reality.

Open your eyes.  Open your mind to your surrounding environment.  Pay attention.  Real lives may depend on it, not to mention your own, of course.  Turn off your smart phone when you're driving, in a meeting, in a movie or concert, at the theater, walking or hiking through beautiful parks.  It's illegal to drive and text at the same time in many states including Minnesota where I live.  Hello!  People!  There's a reason it's illegal, right?  It's a matter of public safety and public health.  The really shocking results of the study I mentioned at the top of this essay is that 49% of adults, ADULTS, who knew the action was illegal and bad, still did it.  Why?  "Because it was a habit, and habits are hard to break."  Clearly, these adults would prefer to break their texting habit by dying in a car wreck or by killing someone else.

I do not own a car or drive, although I have a driver's license and have occasionally rented cars on weekends in the past.  I use public transportation to travel around the city, and my feet.  I think that when an adult is caught texting and driving, endangering the lives of others, the punishment should be that they lose their car for a hefty period of time -- and their license -- forcing them to use public transportation or their feet.  You want to hear them whine?  I don't know anyone who can whine louder than car drivers who don't have a car.  That hurts them, therefore, it's a good punishment for texting and driving at the same time.  They should get three warnings with this punishment and if they don't open their eyes, change their behavior, then they do not deserve the privilege of driving and should lose their license and car.

Sound harsh?  And how harsh is it to lose one's life because someone chose to indulge a habit behind the wheel instead of opening their eyes?

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