My How Times Have Changed

Anyone out there remember wrapping garbage in newspapers and stuffing it in a brown paper grocery sack?  Then you would fill an old 55 gallon drum with the refuse and try to burn this disgusting stuff. Usually liquid seeping from watermelon rinds or some other problematic fluid would cause the paper sack to bust while you were carrying it to the metal drum. There were no trash bags back then, and by the way, this was before disposable diapers, too. I thought about these minor inventions, but they don’t seem very minor when you are a young mother carrying around a bag filled with dirty cloth diapers. That was a long, long time ago, and probably only the most eco-friendly of folks would really want those nasty cloth diapers back.

Not long ago, a local businessman remembered that growing up his family had a phone that they shared with others. It was called a party line, and we had one, too. There was nothing festive or celebratory about wanting to make a call and having to wait until the other individuals who shared it were done speaking. Young cellphone users have no idea what it was like trying to place a long-distance call or having to be worried about how many minutes you were racking up, either.

About a decade ago, I first realized how dramatically the world had changed. No, it wasn’t because of the computer, microwave, GPS system, or even Facebook. It was even before the iPhone or Uber drivers were commonplace.

It happened when a friend told me about an incident with her young daughter who panicked when she accidentally forgot to bring her Bath & Body body wash along for a vacation. The tween frantically asked her mom what she should do, because they were already at the hotel when she noticed her oversight.

“Use the hotel soap,” her mother suggested. This bewildered pre-teen couldn’t fathom using bar soap, because all she had ever known was scented body wash.

About that same time, I asked a bright teenage girl what the ultimate goal of her career would be. Without hesitation, she answered, “I would like to be the president of the United States someday.” In my youth, only boys had this dream. Then in our country’s last election, there was a female candidate running for office. It’s not unrealistic to believe that one day in the not too distant future our country could have a lady president.

Maybe because I was having another birthday, I couldn’t stop contemplating all of the vast changes that had occurred in my lifetime. I wondered how other people felt about this subject. So, I conducted some scientific research by asking my Facebook friends, “What has changed drastically in your lifetime?”

Of course, there were quite a few comments about “communication.” About how the Internet, social media, and today’s phones have created this. There were also several remarks about TV. A Longtime friend, Perry Luhn wrote, “I never saw my first color television until I was 10. We watched The Wonderful World of Disney at a friend’s house, I was in awe. We never got a color set until I was a junior or senior…Now I think the shows in B&W are cool.”

This specific insight sparked my own memory about having only couple of channels to choose from in the old days. TV was something you didn’t take for granted though. What I remember most vividly is how we used to fix our television. When it would get snowy one of us kids would reposition the rabbit ears or give the set a good whack on the side. Our parents had taught us this art of TV repair, which amazingly often worked.

When it comes to communication, not everyone thought the changes were for the better. There were words like “respect, manners, and civility” that some of my Facebook friends find lacking in our society today. Of course, there are times I have to agree.

But just when you are ready to proclaim the world unsalvageable; you encounter folks like Claire and her family. She’s a neighboring teen who I met last night while walking. When I commented to her mother on the lovely flowers in their yard, Claire made me a beautiful bouquet to take home. The colorful blossoms are a little reminder that kindness does remain in the midst of our impersonal, rushed, and ever-changing existence.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. 

 

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The Danger of Distracted Driving

Highway at nightI recognized the small truck right away. The logo on the vehicle’s door represented a local company that I respected. One that I had done business with in the past. Driving next to the pick-up on a two lane highway outside of town, we were stopped by a red light in adjacent lanes. The sun had set over an hour earlier. Even though it was dark, the light from a cellphone clasped in the hands of a young female driver illuminated the truck’s cab. Her long hair obscured most of her face, because she was glancing down glued to her cellphone screen instead of the road in front of her. Not only that, but when the light turned green, mesmerized by a text or Facebook post, she didn’t move.

After driving about a half mile down the 50 mph highway, I looked in my rearview mirror concerned that she would get hit from behind. The mother in me frantically wanted to warn her to start moving. Thankfully, she finally did. At the next red light, it happened all over again. The distracted girl remained oblivious to her surroundings engrossed in the phone. A second time the truck sat still when the light turned green. This time when I glanced back, the mother in me wanted to take her car keys away.

As a nation, we are justifiably concerned over the possibility of another terrorist attack. Yet in all probability, it’s a driver more interested in their iPhone than safe driving practices that could contribute to our demise. A September Wall Street Journal article reported that traffic fatalities surged 14% (NSC statistics) in the first half of 2015 blamed on more drivers, cheaper gas, catastrophic weather, etc. But famed Berkshire-Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet says that he believes distracted driving could be an “overlooked contributor.”

In reality, we have no idea how many auto collisions occur annually due to our addiction to our phones, especially with the invention of the Smartphone. According to a USA Today article last year, “Cellphone use causes one in four car accidents” by Gabrielle Kratsas. “The [2014 edition] of National Safety Council’s annual injury and fatality report, “Injury Facts,” found that the use of cellphones… [caused] 26% of the nation’s car accidents, a modest increase from the previous year.”Directions

Although this report doesn’t include all the incidents where drivers did not divulge that they were on their phones. For example, can you imagine anyone reporting, “I was on my cellphone not paying any attention when I plowed into your vehicle.” Nor did “Injury Facts” name texting as the primary culprit, since in 95% of the cases investigated, drivers were using hand-held or hand-free cellphones.

Fourteen states currently ban hand-held cellphone use while driving, but Ohio is not one. If we are honest, most of us have difficulty doing more than one task at a time. Especially, when that task involves use of a cellphone while travelling 70 plus miles an hour on the interstate. It’s not just at high rates of speed either. How many times have you been stopped at a red light when you observe a preoccupied motorist like the girl in the company truck? It’s even more frightening to be moving along and spot another driver’s neck in the downward dog yoga position fixated on their phone.

End of Road signNot long ago, driving a car was a privilege that came with weighty societal responsibility. Today, young drivers are at increased risk due to their lack of experience. The CDC reports that “they have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.” But older drivers are guilty too. Distracted driving includes: cellphone use, texting, applying makeup, programming a GPS, eating, arguing with a passenger, etc. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that, “In 2013, 3,154 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver…an additional 424,000 people were injured.” If you’ve ever fought your way back to health following a serious wreck, you realize that those numbers represent countless individuals whose lives have been severely impacted by someone else’s possibly careless behavior.

We all want to use our Smartphones, so many of us are contributing unnecessarily to the problem by looking the other way. There are Ohio laws against texting, but the National Safety Council advises folks who want to be part of the solution to “Support Cellphone distracted driving legislation… for bills banning cell phone use-handheld and [even] hands-free-while driving.” This might seem a little drastic, but what would be a good solution to stop distracted driving?

Christina DrivingChristina Ryan Claypool is an award-winning freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com. 

 

 

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