Ban dummies, not weapons of mass distraction!

Much as I hate to drag my poor dog Coco into the debate over WMDs, I'm wondering whether the attempt to ban using cell phones while driving includes a ban on using copycat devices that look like cell phones but which really aren't.

Like this ridiculous item:


The reason Coco is in the background is that the picture would be boring without her, and I read somewhere that photographers should always strive to have something interesting in the background, and I think Coco is more interesting than a useless dummy phone. Well, the dummy phone rings very convincingly if you press the right button, and it also has voice samples saying things like "Operator, can I help you?" (As if it's possible to find an operator willing to make such a commitment these days. . .)

If the Pennsylvania legislature passed a cell-phone ban and I really wanted to test its limits, if I drove around like a goofball and held the dummy phone to my ear, would they pull me over?

And if they did, would the officer get a kick out of my gag? Frankly, I don't think he would, because there's nothing funny about a dummy cell phone -- especially the ones that resemble the real thing. The cop would probably be angry, arrest me for "distracted driving" or misleading the police or something. Who knows? They might even take me to a hospital for "observation."

Not that the general public would care, though. I could walk around all day talking into that thing, and I could even argue with the fake operator, and everyone would think I was a normal person.

Why? Because I'd be appearing to do what normal people do, and appearances count more than realities.

Now, if I really wanted to get a rise out of both the law enforcement community and the general public, I'd ask Coco to let me borrow this:


It's much larger and more colorful. Plus, the sounds it makes are much more playful. It almost seems to invite babytalk.

If an officer saw me talking on something like that and pulled me over, surely he'd understand.

Clearly, then, the problem isn't talking on cell phones; it's the appearance of talking on cell phones. The second cell phone would be considered less deceptive (as its an obvious dummy) and thus, no one would accuse me of trying to create a false appearance.

(Of course, these days, you can get arrested even for having dummies in your car, so maybe the situation is hopeless.)

posted by Eric on 06.22.06 at 09:33 AM

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