The Rant

The Attention Gap

Oh-so-young texter, you are old enough to know that your 'need' to text shouldn't come before the need of all the rest of us to walk safely

I see you coming. You are coming right at me. And yet, you do not see me, even though you are coming right at me. Why is that? It is because you are texting while walking along a crowded New York City sidewalk. You are on Madison Avenue, for God's sake! You are not traipsing alone in some bucolic field in which no people — not even cows — roam. You are surrounded by people walking towards you, behind you and all around you.

Oh-so-young texter, you are definitely old enough to know that your "need" to text ought not come before the needs of all the rest of us to walk safely and carefully, with our dignity and health (and lives!) intact. And yet, your need to text "Yo" or "KK" to someone who is undoubtedly also texting you, while walking at the same moment, trumps your common courtesy and civility. Why do you force moms with babies in their arms and elderly folks with canes and walkers to get out of your way? Why do you not live according to the Golden Rule of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"? Do you really — seriously — want me to walk headfirst into you?

Why are you not aware of the statistics showing that most of those harmed by texting while walking are actually you and your peers? We middle-aged folk are wise enough to keep our eyes on you instead of our screens so that we can stay the hell out of your way. (OK, now and then one does spy a middle-aged person walking and texting, perhaps trying to be cool, perhaps having lost a tad too many brain cells due to overdoing the hallucinogens back in the day.)

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Why must I view my daily walks as an "extreme sport"? Why must I swerve and dodge and bob to avoid a head-on collision with you, while you walk like a lurching zombie under the influence, weaving and zigzagging, stopping abruptly, taking insanely tiny steps followed by insanely long ones in no discernable pattern whatsoever?

Do you understand that texting takes over the foreground of your consciousness, and walking therefore has to take a backseat (driving does, too, by the way)? It's called "inattention blindness." It's called neuropsychology. It's called science.

Have you found any time in your busy day of texting and Tinder-swiping to read the report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, documenting that distracted pedestrians are in thousands of accidents and fatalities each year?

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On YouTube, there are lots of clips of "funny accidents" that people get into while walking and texting. There's the one of the guy walking into a wall, and the "infamous" viral one of the woman falling into a water fountain at the mall. Oh, and the woman who fell into Lake Michigan! (In London, texting while walking has reached such epidemic proportions that they're padding some of the lampposts — and, yes, padded lampposts are pretty funny-looking.)

But will it really be LOL or LMAO funny if you fall down a manhole? Or walk into traffic? Look, I care about you. I really do. You are the future of our planet. I don't want to see harm befall you.

Still, I've got to be honest here. Sometimes I say to hell with making room for you. So, just as you walk right towards me, head down, fingers clicking, I keep walking right towards you. I don't swerve or dodge. Suddenly I'm smack-dab in front of you, blocking you. Sometimes we bump into each other. Sometimes our little bumps are more like bona-fide smashes, which I don't even mind, because here's the thing: the look on your face—your scowl, your outrage, your indignation—at my nerve for being in your path is priceless.

And sometimes I confess that I feel the urgent need to text someone about it … but not while I'm walking.

Tags: technology