Let's do things right this year.
· Let's vote out every state legislator who refuses to consider a bill that would ban cell-phone use while driving. For years, I've called for a ban, only to have legislators hide behind inanities like, "There is no data that shows a correlation between cell-phone use and traffic accidents." But now there are several such studies that show that the two are inextricably linked, and still we get no action from the legislators, probably because they're among the worst offenders.
On the radio show that I do, we had a state legislator on who spat out talking points as though a wireless-industry lobbyist had a hand up his butt and was Charlie McCarthy-ing the whole thing. Drivers are distracted by a lot of things, like tuning the radio. You vile piece of peanut-infested dung! People don't get in the car and tune the radio for 15 or 20 minutes at a time. They don't gesticulate or lean sideways while tuning the radio.
They don't drive one- (or none-) handed for long stretches of time after pushing the No. 4 FM button. If I ever said anything even close to being that stupid, I'd walk to Los Angeles just so my mama could slap me.
Most drivers only talk on phones for important calls. Are you freakin' kidding me?! If you got together a panel of average people (including cell-phone users) and asked them to judge the nature of other people's calls, what percent would be considered important or even necessary? Five percent? One percent? Probably not even that high. In my entire life, I've made exactly zero cell-phone calls in a car. I'm still alive; my wife and kids are fine; the house hasn't burned down, and I remembered what to get at the store.
Let's look at it this way: There is a statistical certainty that someone who is reading this column will be killed or seriously maimed by a driver talking on a cell phone this year! The odds are that it won't be a legislator, so that increases the odds that it will be you. If that's OK with you, I'll pass your name along to them, and they can go back to nesting in the colons of the cell-phone lobbyists of their choice.
· Let's have a mass intervention with the music critic at the Tucson Citizen who listed Ashlee Simpson's I Am Me as the best pop album of the year. The fact that music magazines and newspapers even took the time to review something so corporately contrived is disillusioning enough. That somebody would take it seriously is suicide-inducing. Last year started with Ashlee Simpson being booed by 70,000 people at halftime of the Orange Bowl. That should have set the tone for the rest of her four- or five-month "career."
· One of the newer and more annoying aspects of modern life is having to answer a particular question when ordering at a fast-food restaurant. While the practice seems to be spreading to other outlets (including Jack-in-the-Box and Carl's Jr.), I'm talking specifically about Taco Bell, a fast-food chain that made a spectacular business comeback after switching to a low-cost menu with open-late hours. That should have been enough. But, no. Nowadays, you drive up to the window, and a disinterested voice asks, "How're ya' doin' tonight?" You know that person doesn't care how you're doing tonight or any other night. They're just passing their time in a crappy job, waiting until they get out of school or bemoaning the fact that they never did get out of school. Why are they being punished beyond having to fold tortillas for minimum wage?
And why am I being punished at the same time? I hear the anguish in their voices. I know they'd probably rather be shoveling manure in Lubbock, Texas. At least then they wouldn't have to be asking the horses how they're doing just before the mess issues forth. Why can't I just order my zesty chicken border bowl, hoping that there will be more than the corporate-mandated 4.2 pieces of chicken in it, and be on my way? Why can't they just do the job they agreed to do without having concierge added to their job description without the attendant bump in pay?
Nine times out of 10, the honest answer to that question is, "I'm lousy; I'm hungry, and I'm stuck in a long line of cars. Just give me some food; I'll give you some money, and we'll consider it a successful business transaction." They have to know that if I'm at Taco Bell, it's probably not the high point of my day (although sometimes it actually is), so I'm not given to chitchat.
What sucks the most is that you just know that there is some turd high up the corporate chain, making six figures a year, who came up with that idea. Not how to make the food more nutritious or keep the prices down or even to make the lines move faster. Just how to annoy people by posing a question that no one wants to ask and no one wants to answer. Let's find that person and choke him with a chalupa.