While driving down the 405 the other day, I read a dumb article on my smart phone. An LA Weekly blogger boasted that even though it's illegal, he texts and drives and isn't sorry about it. The piece was accompanied by a photo of a very cool-looking dude in the driver's seat of a car with his left hand on the wheel and his eyes on a texting device in his right hand. The blogger framed his crime as a kind of libertarian act of civil disobedience, except for the civil part, the part about accepting the consequences of one's actions.
I waited till traffic slowed way down so I could read the piece more carefully. When I zeroed in on the writer's claim that it was okay for him to text and drive because he was a good multi-tasker, I realized that the piece was a parody -- and a darned good one -- of the faux-rebelliousness of the terminally hip.
The next day, while my car and I were crawling along Wilshire Boulevard at rush hour, I got bored and decided to Google around on my iPad to see how readers were reacting to the satire. It turned out not everyone got the joke. At mediabistro, the Weekly's editor defended the blog from critics who took it seriously and were appalled that anyone would be pro-texting/driving. The editor argued that most everyone texts while they drive, including the very hypocrites who took umbrage at the blog. When she described herself as a "chronic speeder," a clever diversion, I figured her defense of the indefensible was a meta-put on.
Later that day, at the intersection of Mulholland and Coldwater, I myself stood up to The Man by flouting the silly law that says you can't run a red light even if no one is coming from the opposite direction. (Which is every bit as ridiculous as the prohibition against rolling through stop signs if hardly anyone's around.) Mid-flout, I read an incoming text from a veteran alt weekly watcher who said that while he was driving to work, he received, via Google Alert, the news that the Weekly blogger had seen the error of his ways -- he would continue to text while driving but from now on he would feel guilty about it.
At that point, I didn't know whom or what to believe. Was the blogger making fun of the morons who think law-breaking is okay as long as you feel bad when you do it? Or was it possible that he actually meant what he wrote?
I needed a reality check. So the next morning, as I backed out of my driveway with my left hand on the wheel, I used my right hand to tap out a text to the vet alt weekly watcher, who I knew would be driving to the gym. He quickly texted back that the whole thing had to be a brilliant put on. "After all," he texted, "no self-respecting journalistic enterprise would defend texting and driving and then issue the kind of non-apology apology usually reserved for politicians."