Out There: Hands-Free Plea

Illustration: N.C. Winters

Motorists: Put down the phone and drive.

“Come on, you jerk!” I bellowed, chest puffed and nostrils flaring, “Get out here and fight me like a man!”

My fists banged on the hood of the black BMW with rage. The driver threw his automobile in drive and sped off, tires squealing.

As I stood on the sidewalk, panting heavily, the car disappeared into the flow of rush-hour traffic. Suddenly, I became aware of several sets of eyes on me—drivers who had stopped to witness the spectacle that had taken place at the corner of 40th Street and Chandler Boulevard.

“What?” I sneered as I smoothed back my disheveled ponytail. I’m not normally a violent person. But that morning, halfway through my favorite 5-mile route, something inside of me snapped.

Perhaps it had something to do with the BMW that almost killed me.

That morning, I was running north on the sidewalk next to the southbound lane of traffic. I had the right of way while crossing a side street when suddenly, out of nowhere, I met the black hood of a car and asphalt below in rapid succession.

I lay on the ground, stunned. What just happened? Cautiously, I sat up, face-to-face with a BMW logo. As I craned my neck to see above the hood, I could see the driver in the front seat, a middle-aged man with surgical scrubs and a hair gel–abuse problem.

Dr. Dep rolled down his window. “You OK?”

I nodded, pulling myself to a standing position.

“Sorry,” he muttered, “I didn’t see you. Maybe you shouldn’t be running here.”

“I shouldn’t be running here? You shouldn’t be hitting people on the sidewalk with your car!”

“Don’t be dramatic,” Dr. Dep chided, “You’re fine, jeez. I didn’t see you.”

“You could have killed me! “I yelled.

“I DIDN’T SEE YOU!”

My rage swelled. I was seeing red—literally. A bright crimson dot materialized in my line of vision. I closed my eyes and shook my head, hoping to make my ire disappear. When I opened them again, the red dot was still there, blinking. Dr. Dep followed my gaze.

A cellphone. The red light was coming from the cellphone in his lap.

“That.” I pointed at the device. My rage hit the boiling point. My language skills dissolved into a series of snorts, grunts and gestures: “THAT. NOT OK. NO. NO.”

I’d tell you the words that followed from that point on, but this is a family publication. Let’s just say if this were an episode of “Sesame Street,” it would have been brought to you by the letter F.

Dr. Dep rolled up his window just as my transformation to King Kong took hold, pounding on the hood of the car with my fists.

Every year, I write a column with a simple plea to motorists: Put down the phone and drive. Yet phone use behind the wheel continues to rise, and people continue to get hit (and much, much worse). Drivers continue to deflect blame, sitting in their cars with their cellphones, their arrogance and their “maybe-you-shouldn’t-be-running-heres.”

Maybe that’s why I snapped—I’ve run out of ways to try to change the Dr. Deps of the world. I’m tired of writing nice words asking for people to operate their two-ton death wagons responsibly. What I really want to do is climb up onto the Empire State Building like King Kong, roaring and throwing monkey punches at every texting driver who passes by.

Maybe they’d notice that.

They certainly seem to miss everything else.

****

About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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