Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

Look Ma! No Hands!

©istockphoto/Eric Hood
©istockphoto/Eric Hood

Do you commute by car? If so, I encourage you to do at least one of three things.

1. Hire a driver.

2. Drive a standard transmission.

3. Get a bluetooth headset.

After two rather harrowing days on the road (the famous “Blue Angels” must be in town, on leave), I’ve come to the conclusion that we are not meant to make telephone calls while we are driving defensively. So please, if you do drive yourself, don’t use your “free hand” to handle a mobile phone.

For those of us who prefer to travel with our phones and don’t have a driver (I have a horrible sense of direction and the phone comes in handy…), modern technology has come to our rescue. Well, the rescue of all the other people on the road, really. Today, there are a number of very elegant options for making hands-free calls.

The absolute best of the lot, in terms of sheer usability, is the bluetooth enabled car and iPhone. A good friend of mine uses this option with his Honda Civic. He listens to music by plugging his iPhone into the dash; it plays through the speakers. When he has a call, the music fades, an integrated speakerphone chirps, he pushes a button and speaks into the air. When he finishes his call, he pushes a button to hang up, and the music volume returns to its pre-call levels. Brilliant.

Of course, I prefer to drive with the sunroof and windows open when the weather is clement. This is in preparation for that glorious day when I begin to drive a vintage convertible. Therefore, a speakerphone may not be my best solution.

Enter the second generation jawbone. I have the first model, which needs a little tailoring and gluing back together on occasion. The second gen is supposed to be better built and the noise reduction feature is truly a marvel. Positioned correctly on your cheek, the jawbone picks up vibrations from your facial bones when you speak and clearly transmits your anxiety at being late for your appointment. Even with the windows down. The new one also comes with a little leather wrapped earclip…. although they don’t offer it in brown to match your shoes and watch strap. Clearly an oversight.

If you object to having the more visible headset, there are the new tiny transmitters to consider. The Dragon V2 by Callpod is very Jack Bauer. And it functions like a walkie-talkie, without using airtime minutes, if it’s in range of a companion piece. Excellent for those wagon train hauls down to the beach, allowing you to communicate with the excess baggage car following close behind.

However, all this investment in new technology becomes unnecessary if you don’t drive yourself or if you simply pull over, take the call and then resume your travels. Or let voicemail pick it up.

You may be wondering about my recommendation to drive a manual transmission. It forces you to concentrate more and makes it damned near impossible to juggle a cell phone, especially in traffic. Besides, it’s lots more fun.

5 thoughts on “Look Ma! No Hands!

  1. It’s the distraction of talking that causes the problem rather than the use of hands. so hands-free is not a solution. if you need to call pull over! ttp://technology.newscientist.com/channel/tech/motoring-tech/dn7658-handsfree-cellphones-carry-car-crash-risk-too.html?feedId=motoring-tech_rss20

  2. I could manage driving standard and talking on the phone, hands on! I didn’t like to do either one, but did. Sometimes, the quite time in the car is the only time I have to talk!

  3. Dear Sir:

    After so many posts where I have agreed with your point of view, I must gently dissent with the ideas you have expressed here:

    1. As Al indicates, it is not the use of hands, but the type of concentration used that make cell phones and automobiles such a dangerous combination. Talking on a phone while driving is not the same as conversing with a partner in the car or listening to the radio. Preliminary studies indicate that when talking on a cell phone, our visual sense goes into “shut down” mode and we basically ignore what is happening on the road. This is not improved by hands-free phones.

    2. And, more relevant to this blog, where is the elegance in wearing a Bluetooth or any other of these horrid head protuberances? Is not elegance doing what is appropriate in a given situation and doing it with style and grace? Would Cary Grant have been more elegant if, on the terrace with Ingrid in “Notorious”, he had sported an electronic device extending from his ear to his mouth and was talking to his broker? I think not.

    I would propose that multi-tasking is by its nature not elegant.


  4. Hello Al, thank you for the link. In response to both your objection and Mr. Stuart’s, I can only admit to having very brief and “disengaged” conversations on my phone. A case in point, my brief call (less than 20 seconds?) in to the office to tell them I would be ten minutes late to the meeting today. Stuck in traffic with nowhere to pull over on a turnpike. But, point taken. To be fully engaged in a conversation or business on the phone whilst driving would be extremely distracting.

    Mr. Stuart, thank you for your comment. I should have also added that the handsfree device stays in the car or in a case when I am out of the vehicle. I tend to whistle on a walk, not mutter into a headpiece. But, I’m glad that you’ve taken the time to make sure that I am on track with my stated mission. Working without an editor has its disadvantages to achieving a goal. Small chinks in the dam must be patched before they give way and allow the break down of all that one has worked toward.

    Fairfax, I think we’ve both got to agree that multitasking is, by nature, inelegant. Or it could be that my level of multitasking competence leaves much to be desired. That quiet time in the car is hard to come by these days!

    As a last thought, and by no means a defense of my practices, I’ll add that in the city, pulling over is very easy. Out on the highway, you take your life into your hands trying to merge from a dead stop on the shoulder into traffic at speed. The solution, must be to let voicemail take over until you are able to stop and return a call. Texting and driving is simply foolhardy.

  5. So timely. I see people all of the time with (seemingly no hands on the wheel. they must have mastered the “knee” drive. And I disagree, I think the hands (and the associated limiting body movement/control) is the issue. I don’t care to have lengthy phone calls ever… but I can tell you this: if I am cradling a cell phone with my neck and shoulder while i turn I am not doing you (another driver) any service.

    Long live the Jawbone 🙂

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