Please hang up and try your call again later WHEN YOU'RE NOT DRIVING!
That's exactly what I long to yell at the very friends I would normally love to hear from, when it becomes abundantly clear that they are sitting in the car, sick of every song on the radio sick, even, of "Morning Edition" (enough with Iraq! We KNOW things are bad) and it has come down to a choice: Calling me, or humming.
ME (picking up the phone, crisply efficient): "Lenore here."
FRIEND I WOULD NORMALLY LOVE TO HEAR FROM: "Hi! I just called to see how hey! That guy just cut me off. Excuse me a sec *#$&@*! Not you the guy in the Ferrari. So anyway, I just called to see how wait. This is the bad stretch. Reception is terrible. Did you say something? You're what? Dizzy with a big roject? What's a roject? What? I'll call you right back. I'm in the car."
Hey, no kidding. Me, I'm at my desk, same place you always find me when you've got 14.2 miles to go on your commute. And you know what I'm doing?
Rooting for the guy in the Ferrari.
I know, I know - that's not at all how you see it. Don't I understand? The car is the one place where you can make your important calls. It's calm. It's quiet. Your life is crazy busy and this is your cocoon.
The problem is, while you are making like a caterpillar, I am in a place called "the real world." A place where time actually passes and work piles up. My minutes are not "free." When you and I talk, it's Mars and Verizon: I need to be efficient, you need to be entertained. Both of us end up insulted by the other's insensitivity. Except that YOU'RE the self-absorbed jerk!
"The only thing worse than being someone's entertainment is when they give you a play-by-play," contends Jen Brazgel, a freelance writer as fed up as I am. "My friend will call me and say, 'You should see this guy cutting me off!' But why should I see that?" Jen wonders. "I have, in fact, been in a car before. Do they really think that this is interesting conversation?"
Tough cookie, Jen. But she's right: It's not just that car phoners interrupt us they're boring, too. The solution, of course, is to beg off tactfully enough to keep the friendship solid.
But that's tricky when you want to scream, "SHUT UP!" So perhaps the best idea is simply to remind your chatty friend that while handsfree sets may be legal in New York, drivers on cell phones are still more likely to get into accidents. In short: Friends don't let friends drone and drive.
And friends don't stay friends when they do.