Ihave never actually sent or received a text. That fact may come as a surprise, especially to those of you who have already sent more than three since you started reading this column. I could give my usual stump speech about how texting is simultaneously ruining the attention span, manners, posture, communication skills, and spelling of virtually everyone, but I think I have discovered a more nuanced argument.
Other countries have started to crack down on distracted texting. In China, officials have proposed special “cellphone-only” walking lanes on city streets, where clumsy pedestrians who no longer look up after leaving the house can now bump exclusively into each other, instead of knocking over elderly people who stubbornly prefer to look where they are going.
While the idea sounds clever, I suspect the Chinese have not thought this through, since these lanes will have to be really, really wide to accommodate the texting masses. Even wider than in the classic “Seinfeld” episode where Kramer adopts a stretch of highway and repaints the white stripes to make extra roomy lanes — the interstate equivalent of first-class airplane travel. But since WUI (walking under the influence) now affects billions of people, the text-only lanes may not solve the problem.
Yet it will create a Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest arena, where the species best adapted to walk while looking straight ahead will have the sidewalks entirely to themselves, while the rest of the population flails about in the “struggle for existence” — falling into open manholes, stepping in front of oncoming traffic, running over each other with baby strollers. In such an environment, only a select few will survive to pass their text-free walking skills on to the next generation.
Incidentally, China is policing more than just foot traffic. I recently read that Chinese theater ushers are now using lasers to zap disruptive texting patrons during movies and concerts. At first I was alarmed at this new tactic. While it could in fact cut down on the single greatest public nuisance of the 21st century, the death penalty seemed a tad harsh for the crime of texting during “Zootopia.” However, I kept reading the article, and when I realized that the ushers were merely using red laser pointers and were not actually incinerating rude customers with proton beams, I lost interest.
But back to my evolution analogy. I started to wonder if texting had any adaptive benefits that might actually promote long-term species survival. I conducted extensive research on YouTube, only to find endless videos of texting pedestrians falling into fountains at the mall. A few fared much worse. One guy barely looked up in time to escape a black bear, while another woman sent a text right before she walked straight into Lake Michigan. All this seemed to reinforce my fear that the vast majority of our species is doomed.
However, you’ll be relieved to discover that there is hope at the end of the “send” button. According to a 2015 Cornell University study, texting during minor surgery may decrease the need for pain medication. To be clear, we are not talking about the doctors. It is still illegal for a surgeon to send a text while he is elbow deep in Mrs. McGillicuddy’s appendix.
But the study clearly demonstrated benefits for patients undergoing minor surgery with local anesthesia. As it turns out, those who sent text messages during the ordeal required six times less pain medication than those who simply read the latest People magazine. Granted, there is a slight design flaw in the study, since most people need at least a baby aspirin to make it through an issue of People magazine.
Yet the results are encouraging. Even though cellphone-walking accidents may eventually wipe out a significant percent of the human species, the rest will build up an adaptive resistance to pain while under local anesthesia. That could be the deciding factor in who among us survives the Sixth Extinction.
Not to mention the fact that local anesthetic is better for the environment, since you don’t have to bring it in from out of town. I only patronize doctors who use local Searcy products. None of this imported Memphis-style anesthetic for me, even if does have a tangy after-burn.
So there you have it, my friends. Conclusive proof that if you text while walking and fall into the lake, get bitten by a bear or beamed by a laser pointer, then you will survive the resulting minor surgery under a home-grown anesthetic as long as you keep on texting through the pain. Think of the adaptive skills you’ll be passing onto your children.