Jeff Ackerman: Hands off – you’re driving me nuts! |

Jeff Ackerman: Hands off – you’re driving me nuts!

So I was driving down the road, banging my cell phone against the steering wheel because I’d hit the “Dead Zone” on Highway 20, when I just chucked the thing into the back seat and started text-messaging with the two fingers on my left hand that I didn’t need anyway for the quick dart in and out of the fast lane because I wanted to know what my wife wanted me to pick up from the store.

“Hey, moron!” shouts a guy who pulls up alongside me, his window down and his fat dog lapping at the wind. “It’s against the law to drive with a cell phone!”

I knew that, of course (actually it’s legal for another week or so), but since I’ve been driving legally for roughly 41 years and in general for 43 (I used to steal my dad’s car when I was 14), I don’t need some state lawmaker, or some guy with a fat dog, to tell me what to do with my hands while I’m driving.

So I took my only free hand (steering with my knees) and gave a three-finger salute to the guy with the fat dog and finished my text message to my wife. “LOL,” I began. For those who have never sent a text before, LOL means Laugh Out Loud. I think they charge by the word so they’ve developed a whole dictionary of text abbreviations, which is why most kids can’t spell today.

For the record, I think I’m a Libertarian. I took a test and everything. It determined that I really don’t want government doing anything but ensure my toilet flushes and keep me safe from invaders – both foreign and domestic – while I’m sleeping. I don’t want my government telling me what kind of light bulbs to use in my bedside lamp (they are doing that in California today), or what to do with my hands on the way to grandma’s house (they are doing that, too, in California). We need to recognize that there will always be stupid people and that you’ll never pass enough laws to make them smarter.

“But studies have shown that one of every two wrecks is caused by someone on a cell phone,” they argue, which is simply not true. Accidents are caused by stupid people who don’t know how to drive and stupid legislators who think they can just pass a law to make stupid people smarter. In the end they just cause more paperwork for the courts and for traffic cops who must now carry a 20-page checklist of “dos and don’ts” that is growing by the day.

“Got your seatbelt on?”

“Yes, officer.”

“How about your dog? Does he also have a seatbelt on?”

“Yes, officer.”

“I noticed that I couldn’t see your hands when I drove up. Where are your hands?”

“Right here, officer. On my wrists, where I left them.”

“You being a wise-ass?”

“No, officer. You asked where my hands were and I told you.”

“Gotta cell phone?”

“Yes, sir, I do. It’s in my case on the seat next to me.”

“I thought I saw you talking on the phone when you drove past me. Were you?”

“No, officer. A bug flew into my ear and I was trying to dig it out.”

“You being a wise-ass?”

“No, sir.”

“Gotta hands-free device for that phone?”

“No, sir. I don’t know how to use one.”

“You being a wise-ass?”

“No, officer. I mean it. I just learned how to text message. Did you know that LOL means Laugh Out Loud?”

“You being a wise-ass?”

“Sir. I’m sorry. I was just driving to my mother-in-law’s house when you pulled me over. Maybe you just saw me fiddle with the radio buttons?”

“What you need to do is shut up and keep both hands on the steering wheel when you drive. Do you know that one of every two wrecks is caused by some idiot on a cell phone?”

“Yes, officer. I read that in The Union just this morning, but I’m pretty sure it was one out of every 100 or so, not two.”

“You being a wise-ass?”

“No, sir. I’ll shut up now.”

I don’t have the exact figures handy, but back in the day before cell phones, text messages and hands-free devices… you know… back in the day when most of us were in the prime of our driving lives and the California Legislature wasn’t filled with morons… they had just as many wrecks per capita as they have today. That’s probably because they had just as many stupid people per capita. Take my family, for example. My dad taught me how to drive the old-fashioned way. “Slide over here, you sissy, and grab the wheel.”

Next thing you know I was taking his car for a spin while he was in the shower and crashing it into police cars. Both hands were on the wheel and they hadn’t even invented the cell phone yet. Unfortunately I was driving a stick and needed to downshift, which would have slowed me down before I hit the cop car in the driver’s side.

“You picked the wrong guy to hit,” the officer said.

“I know, officer. Sorry.”

“I noticed you had both hands on the steering wheel.”

“Yes, officer. I did. They seemed frozen there and I couldn’t pry them off.”

“You being a wise-ass?”

“No, officer. I’m just telling you why I had both hands on the steering wheel.”

“You should have let go with one hand and shifted down.”

“I know, officer. Did you know that LOL stands for Laugh Out Loud?”

“You being a wise-ass?”

“No, sir.”

Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 477-4299,, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.

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