Lent and the Art of Driving Without Calling

I was at a dinner party this past Saturday when the topic of Lent came up. For Catholics like me and other Christians, Lent is typically the time to give up something that is important to your lifestyle as a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice. Most Catholics I know give up something like candy or chocolate or soda. Or, if you’re the Pope, you give up being the Pope. Zing!

Way back during my freshman year of college, it struck me that giving up sweets did nothing for me. I love sweets, so it was a sacrifice, but it just seemed like a symbolic sacrifice instead of something that would make me a better person. So I decided to add something good to my life instead, with the intention of getting in the habit of that good thing during Lent and continuing afterwards. I took up flossing, and I’ve stuck with it ever since.

So when the topic came up at the recent dinner party (if you’re picturing a swanky Eyes Wide Shut-style party with foreign appetizers and Budweiser Black Label, you’d be correct), I smugly sat back in my chair as I prepared to impress the crowd with my Lenten methods.

“Sure, you can temporarily give up sweets like any commoner,” I said, dismissing the idea with a wave of my hand. “But I prefer to use Lent to make a permanent, healthy change in my life.”

I paused for dramatic effect while my friends, hanging onto every word, lifted their sex-party masques onto their brows to make room for the spaghetti they were eating (fine, there were no sex masques. I’m not even sure that’s the right spelling for that type of masque. It was a casual dinner party with spaghetti and meatballs. If you know what I mean, wink wink….).

“For the last two Lents, I’ve tried to permanently give up something unhealthy, and I haven’t quite succeeded. So I’m trying again this year.”

I paused again for dramatic effect, preparing myself for the raucous applause and “huzzahs” that would follow my insight. I then paused mid-pause for even more dramatic effect before continuing the original pause.

“I’m giving up looking at my phone while I’m driving. Not just texting, but anything the requires me to look at my phone screen while I’m driving,” I said, flashing a toothy grin at a female friend at the table, then another at her husband. They know what’s up.

“Wait, you usually look at your phone while you drive?” she said. “That’s really dangerous.”

Tough crowd. “No, like, when I answer the phone,” I said. “I have to look at the screen to see who’s calling or if I want to answer.”

“You talk on the phone while you’re driving,” another friend said.

“Yeah, of course. It’s called multitasking. Don’t you?”

This is the moment we’ve all experienced when you think you’ve shown up at a sex masque party and it’s actually just a spaghetti and meatballs dinner party. We’ve all been there.

“No! That’s really dangerous!”

Everyone at the table agreed.

I looked around at them, incredulous. “You mean none of you talk on the phone while you drive? When else do you call your grandma?”

One of the guys said, “Okay, I’ll admit that I have, on occasion, driven while on the phone. But hardly ever.”

“Statistically it’s just as dangerous as driving while texting,” another friend said. Who were these people?! With their facts and figures and safe driving. Please.

Just to make sure I understood them correctly, I asked them again if they talked on the phone while they drive. Unanimously they said no.

Now, I’m sure not everyone is like my friends. I’m sure there are plenty of people like me who talk on the phone while they drive. But I don’t know those people. I know my friends, and while talking to them, I realized that I do something on a regular basis that is not only dangerous to me, but also to the people around me. And I’m not talking about showing up at a sex masque party without a leather loincloth.

So I declared on the spot that I would not only give up looking at my phone screen and texting while driving (just for the record, I very rarely text and drive, and I contend that it’s way more dangerous than these other activities), but also talking on the phone while driving. Period. Even for grandma. Grandma calls can wait until I get home.

What do you think about this Lenten declaration. Are you giving up anything for Lent, or, if you don’t celebrate Lent, what was the last thing you intentionally tried to add or subtract from your life to become a healthier person?

15 thoughts on “Lent and the Art of Driving Without Calling”

  1. Gone are the days when being able to make a 90-degree right turn while driving with your knees was considered a skill. Sigh…I know it’s for the better, but alas, those vehicular shenanigans still hold a special place in my heart.

    By the way, readers of the JSB, is it considered dangerous to talk on a hands-free device while driving? (Just curious.) Is it the distraction of having something in your hand, the distraction of focusing on talking, or both, that are dangerous?

    Also, Jaam, kudos to you. This piece is hilariously written. It might be the most entertaining entry in quite some time! I’m surprised it doesn’t carry a tag informing your mother not to read it! By the way, I assume the 2nd picture in this post was taken at your “spaghetti and meatballs” party. Looks like you’ve made some new friends.

    • Hah! Agreed, this is well written and very entertaining. I do talk on the phone sometimes while driving, but concede that it’s probably not the most safe thing ever.

      I actually participated in a study in college testing this theory. I was in a simulated car and they would ask me questions about where buildings were located on campus, while increasing wind or other driving conditions. I do not know the results of the study but I will say that I was not a better driver when analytically thinking about something visual. And that was hands free, just thinking and talking. I think you and this memory convinced me to cut back my car phone calls!

      I am not Catholic but in solidarity with my co-worker, and because I think it is a good exercise, I do want to use this time to make a habit: playing my guitar every single day, even if only practicing a few chords for 10 minutes.

      • Emma–That’s really interesting about that study. It sounds like they were tapping a part of your brain that is already in use when you drive. I wonder–as Amanda indicated below about singing–if it’s not dangerous if you use other parts of the brain.

        Very cool that you’re trying to pick up a good habit. Have fun with that!

    • I never got into the habit of talking on the phone while driving — I always felt like a distracted driver when doing it, so I just don’t. I can’t say that’s 100%, but it’s very, very rare. I drive stick, so I think that might be part of it. Unless I’m on the freeway, I need both hands and both feet to drive. I’ve also been in the car with people who do use their phones all the time. I used to not say anything, but I’ve started to ask them to put their phones away. I don’t think they realize how dangerous they come across when doing that and I think, as you learned, it’s socially becoming less and less acceptable.

      I’m not Catholic, so I’ve never given up anything for Lent, but my boyfriend has been trying a new technique for the past few years. He gets very easily addicted to coffee. One espresso a day (less caffeine than one cup of coffee) will make him get headaches if he doesn’t have it. Thus, a few years ago, he gave up coffee cold turkey for lent. After the 40 days he allowed himself some (mostly decaf) coffee again. He also noted that while he was off coffee, he was substituting his coffee fix with sweets. So for the 40 days after Lent, he gave up sweets. After those 40 days, he started exercising at least 30 minutes every day, and so on with a new challenge every 40 days. After the initial 40 days of each of these he was allowed to change those habits, but did his best not to. They all eventually fell, and it didn’t last the whole year, but the every day consistency and the new challenges adding on made him keep striving. By the time Lent rolled around the next year, he was back to drinking shots of full caf espresso every day so he gave it up cold turkey again and did the same routine.

      • Christine–You’re in the car with people who are on the phone while you’re in the car with them? That kind of seems rude of them to do (as well as dangerous).

        So with Lent (and diets in general), do you think they just encourage people to take up bad habits again since they have a specific time when they know they’re going to give them up for a while? Given that I’ve tried this phone thing for a few years and I inevitably get back in the habit, I certainly think that’s possible.

    • Thanks Trev! I’m glad you remembered the “entries I hope my mom doesn’t read” tag–I just added it. And yes, that’s definitely a real photo of real women I took with my real camera phone.

  2. I like this idea a lot! I always have a hard time finding something to give up for Lent – I have vices, just like anyone, but none that are that invasive in my life. This seems like a great way to improve yourself for the long-term instead of just for 40 days.

  3. I drive and talk on the phone all the time. But my phone is hooked up to my stereo, so when it rings, I can tell it to answer and it plays over my speakers. I don’t really think talking on the phone is dissimilar to singing loudly along with the radio, which I do all the time. 🙂

  4. I really like this idea, and while I don’t usually give anything up for Lent, this year I think I’m going to challenge myself to keep the phone out of sight and out of my hands while driving, too.

    I attempted to stop using the phone while driving last year, and the first few weeks were fine, but over time I’ve slipped back into my bad driving habits (using long stoplights to check for messages I’d heard come through being the worst of them), and have pretty much always used my driving time to make phone calls and catch up with people. In the past I’ve assigned custom ringers to contacts who call me the most so I wouldn’t have to actually look at the phone to know who is calling, but I can see how carrying on a conversation even with a handsfree device can be dangerous– and that adds in the extra step of making sure the headset or speaker is charged, and easily accessible (and not stashed away in the glove compartment like mine are).

  5. Area Man Astounds Again With More Questionable Driving Skills

    Local resident Jamey Stegmaier, infamous for driving with his cats curled up at his feet, has confessed to yet another vehicular indiscretion: looking at his phone while driving.
    Jamey explained the news to shocked friends at a recent dinner party, speaking from behind a strange masque, ostensibly to hide his shame.

    “My commute to work is three minutes, ok? That’s three minutes where my Alexa page ranking might go up by a few notches, or three extra minutes until I can look at the cute cat photo someone just posted to their Facebook,” Stegmaier explained. “Time waits for no man, even when that man has proven he is a man of the manliest kind by growing a terrible mustache.”

    When pressed for more reasons why he had trouble leaving his cell phone on the seat next to him, he admitted that he only knows about ten words to any given song, so the normal activity of listening to music in the car brings him little pleasure.

    Stegmaier continues, “Look, I really can’t see how this is any different than when I ogle pretty girls in yoga pants walking in Forest Park every day. I’m taking my eyes off the road for however long it takes for that sweet ass to become just another memory in my rearview mirror, but I don’t see anyone getting offended by that.”

    After some consideration, Stegmaier reasoned that it probably wasn’t the safest thing he could be doing. Although he cherishes that time, which is often used to speak to his grandmother on the phone, he was finally moved to give up distracted driving by his idol: Oprah Winfrey.

    “She’s got this thing called the ‘No Phone Zone Pledge’ and she’s had a ton of people sign it, including celebrities like Sandra Bullock and Mo’Nique. I feel like I have so much in common with both Oprah and Mo’Nique. If they can do it, so can I.”

    In related news, Grandma Stegmaier is now thrilled to have fewer calls from her grandson. “More time for pinochle,” she stated. “P-I-N-O-C-H-L-E, silly boy.”

    • Katie–Words cannot describe how awesome this is. I think you know my blog better than I do!

      I actually meant to write about the pretty girls in yoga pants in Forest Park in the above entry (seriously, they distract me so much more than the phone. I could text while driving while talking on the phone while adjusting my loincloth while eating sushi, and that would be safer than what I do when I ogle.)

      And yes, Mo’Nique and I are basically the same person. I was her body double in that movie she probably made.

  6. I don’t really talk on the phone all that much to begin with, but I do occasionally do it while driving. However, with texting… I do check my phone when I’m sitting at a stoplight, but as soon as it turns green I put the phone away. Is that okay?


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