A Playlist to Save Lives
Rosalie is a chronic multitasker. Ask her to make dinner and expect to see her solving chemistry problems at the same time. She checks off half of her to-do list in less than an hour. I can forgive her for being unfocused. I could let all of the half-done laundry go if, just once, I could drive to the grocery store with my roommate and not fear for my life. Of course I call her out for her inattentiveness, but every time she responds like this: “I don’t have time to be slow!” Unfortunately for her, I am the opposite of a multitasker. I focus on one problem at a time, and my current concern is to cure this distracted driver. “Nora,” Rosalie says, checking her emails while flattening her suitcase, “If we want to get to Boston in under four hours we should leave now, before we hit traffic.” “Alright, I’m just adding some more songs to our playlist.” “I hope you added some Rihanna. All the aggressive drivers in the world drift away when I drive with Rihanna playing.” She smiles as she rolls her baggage outside, still peering at her phone. In the car, I am trying to connect my phone to Rosalie’s radio system. It at least helps me ignore her constant glances at her phone. Suddenly, her screen turns to black, and she looks at the road. Is this a breakthrough? She observes my battle of wits with her car. “You need some help, Nora?” Never mind. “No, I’m fine, thanks. You just worry about the road.” “Come on, you’ve been at this for fifteen minutes.” She grabs my phone and gets the first song to play. Rihanna’s “Shut Up and Drive” begins. “I love this one.” Rosalie sways to the tune, her phone in tow. The song ends. Rihanna plays again. “That’s weird, the same song is playing.” I pick up her phone. A text from her cousins hosting us at their house. “Your cousin is reaching out to you. What should I say?” “Excuse me?” “I’ll type out the text for you. Just tell me what to say.” I offer to do this for the next ten minutes or so. The song plays for almost the fifth time. Rosalie gives an exasperated look. “Nora, quit kidding around. You keep taking my phone away, answering texts and emails, and you only put one song on your playlist! What’s going on?” “Rosalie, what’s the title of this song?” ‘Shut Up and Drive, but I don’t see how that’s relevant…” I give her a knowing glance. She sighs and nods. “I get it, I’m being too distracted. I’m sorry.” “You know Rosalie, over the course of about twenty minutes or so, I’ve been answering your texts and messages for you, and yet, the world has not exploded. I’m here to help you if you want. You need to focus on one thing at a time. It’s better than getting into an accident.” “You’re right. I know I’m a bit absentminded, but I promise, I’ll work on driving safer.” “You’ll have plenty of time to work on that when we get home. From now on, as punishment, I’m driving you on our vacation, so you can see what it’s like to not be on your phone when you drive.” She laughs. “Deal. You know what, put my phone in my purse. I’ll just answer my texts later.”
Whenever I am in the car with my parents, I answer their texts for them so they get to complete the task but don’t risk getting into an accident by using the phone themselves. When the driver is not alone in the car, the other passengers can help by doing certain tasks to allow the driver to focus their attention on the road.