Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pay Attention!

By Annette Dashofy

I’ve been complaining for quite a while now about people on cell phones tuning out the world. From the relatively benign, but annoying practice of chatting on the phone in the check-out line and totally ignoring the sales clerk (RUDE, people! This is RUDE!) to the downright scary practice of talking and/or texting while driving. Multitasking only works to a point. Something has to suffer. Your brain can’t put 100 percent on two things at once. If I’m walking along the road or riding my bike and you’re in a car—or a tractor trailer—I’d really prefer your attention be on not hitting me rather than on the text message you’ve just received.

But this whole techno-multitasking trend has hit a new low. Or high.

Last week, two experienced Northwest Airline pilots missed their destination city by more than a hundred miles because they were using their laptops instead of paying attention to the instruments and the messages being sent to them by air traffic controllers.

Truthfully, this doesn’t qualify as multitasking. They’d taken their headsets off and apparently were single-mindedly focusing on their laptop software (one pilot was teaching the other how to use it).

Excuse me. Aren’t you guys supposed to be flying the plane??? If a flight attendant hadn’t intervened and basically asked them, “Aren’t we there yet?” who knows where they may have ended up. Would they have noticed if they were about to run out of gas? Probably not.

Since this news broke, I’ve been picturing where this trend will end. Will the space shuttle completely miss Planet Earth and end up at Venus because the crew was busy playing Wii?

Okay, okay, I’m exaggerating.
I hope I’m exaggerating.

I think we all need to learn how to focus. Do one thing at a time and do it well. I can hear the screams now. We’ve become a multitasking culture. How will we ever get anything accomplished if we’re stuck to doing one thing at a time?

And I’m not claiming to be blame-free. I’ve burnt dinner a number of times because I had to run into the other room to check email. But I’m working on it.

I do think, though, if you’re multitasking when ONE of those tasks involves motorized equipment that could potentially maim or kill others, you really should pay attention to the road or sky in front of you. No text message or phone call is more important than another life.

At least the pilots have had their licenses revoked.

So what do you all think? Should cell phone use while driving be outlawed? Do you call or text behind the wheel?


Gina said...

Annette -

I'm one of those people who can't talk on the cell and walk at the same time, let alone drive. I say we ban it.

As for the airline pilots, I just can't believe their story. Something else must have been going on, although I don't know what. Think about it -- totally engrossed in a scheduling program for 40 minutes? It would have to have been longer than that -- who would say, "Well, we're landing in 15 minutes, let's start working with this new scheduling software on our laptops now." Their story just doesn't hold water for me. In fact, I can't think of anything they plausibly could have been doing that long, other than sleeping, that would account for not noticing the time, location, etc. although of course other less realistic possibilities come to mind: hosting or fighting off alien cockpit invaders; trying to take the plane elsewhere on purpose; being under the influence of drugs, fumes, hypnotic suggestion, etc.

Annette said...

I agree, Gina. Although, they could have been on Facebook. I've lost large chunks of time over there.

Of course, your alien cockpit invaders theory is much more entertaining than anything I'd come up with!

PatRemick said...

I also think that pilot story is a little fishy.

I say ban texting and only allow hands-free phone use. I know I have been on the phone while driving and all of a sudden realized I have no memory of the past few minutes of driving. Scary.

And yeah, some of us our multitasking ourselves and others into an early grave....

Joyce Tremel said...

From what I've read, even hands-free cell phones are a distraction when driving. The driver is focused on the conversation instead of the roadway. I'd have to find the article, but there was a girl killed a couple of years ago who was using a hands free phone and arguing with her boyfriend. She was so distracted, she went through the flashing lights of a train crossing and was smashed by a train.

Unless it's an emergency, there is absolutely no good reason to be on a cell phone while driving.

I've seen drivers with one hand on a cell phone and one hand up in the air while they were talking instead of on the wheel. What ever happened to the law that a driver had to have BOTH hands on the wheel?

As for the pilots, I don't buy their story either. Maybe they were fooling around (if you know what I mean) and don't want anyone to know. Makes more sense than the laptop story.

Jenna said...

Scary stuff. I'm glad the pilots lost their licenses, although I would actually think the potential for getting into an accident is much higher on the road. There are the flight attendants, for one thing, and probably some fail-safes, too, on a plane, as well as no other places nearby. But on the highway - egads! The nearest car is just a few feet away, and an accident is literally five seconds away from happening at any moment for someone who looks away from the road. All it takes is not realizing that the car in front slammed on the brakes, and a few seconds later... six car pileup. How do you enforce outlawing cell phones in cars, though? Handing out fines left and right when someone's caught with a phone in their hand? Handing out the death penalty when a fatal accident occurs? Taking away driver's licenses?

Jenna said...

That should have been 'planes,' not 'places.' No other PLANES nearby. To hit, yanno.

Annette said...

Joyce, I have to admit, your possible explanation for what they were doing did occur to me, too.

And while I agree that hand-free isn't much better, I don't know how you'd stop it.

Jennie, there have been a number of cases where distracted pilots crashed planes. Not into other planes, but into mountains or even just the ground. It's not the flight attendents' job to look over the pilot's shoulder. And the fail-safes only give warnings. The pilot still has to be paying attention to fly the plane.

Gina said...

Joyce -
I thought about the "fooling around" idea, too, but who gets so engrossed in "fooling around" for that length of time that he is oblivious to everything else? And where can I meet him?

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Oh, dear, Annette, what a hot button. Yes, those pilots are in big trouble, and I'll wait to see what the FAA does to them and all the facts are out. Regarding texting, absolutely not. I've seen what these distractions do. Cell phones, blue tooths and speaker phones are available. We live in dangerous times Thoughtful post, thanks!

JournoMich said...

Timely and interesting. I am a practiced and accomplished multitasker, but lately I've noticed my own tendancy to take it too far. I've found myself thinking twice about answering the phone in the car, or checking a calendar date (again, on the cell phone) while driving. Add to this the fact that I have my children in the vehicle and you'll see where I'm going with this...I am responsible for so many lives! And these pilots were as well. My husband is a certified flight instructor and a private pilot (not by career) and he says it's amazing the way technology has developed in the airline industry. You often hear the joke that the plane can practically land itself, but that is obviously not true. We still need the pilots to be at least paying attention!

So I should talk to my children and write a blog at the same time...Drive the car, drink coffee, and text at the same time - not so much!