I heard a guy on the radio the other day who cited a startling statistic. He said when you’re talking on a cell phone your ability to focus on your surroundings is diminished by a full 37%! Personally, I think it’s way more than 37%, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
First let me go on record as saying I applaud campaigns like "Focus Driven” and Oprah’s "No Phone Zone” that are attempting to put a stop to talking and texting while behind the wheel of a car. Both efforts do an excellent job of raising awareness of the dangers of "distracted driving” and there’s no question that lives will be saved as a result. But take it from me; driving isn’t the only occasion where talking on a cell phone can cause a problem. There are plenty of other times when wireless yakking can get you into trouble as well.
For starters there is "distracted shopping.” Now I don’t know about you, but I have a hard enough time navigating the aisles of the grocery store when all my faculties are fully engaged, let alone trying to select a decent rump roast while simultaneously carrying on a phone conversation. Just yesterday, for instance, I was in the produce section when I got a call from one of my two sisters. Thirty minutes later, after a lengthy discussion about my niece’s summer internship in Austin, and the challenge of finding an appropriate bathing suit for our 82-year-old mom to wear to water therapy, I arrived at the checkout counter where I discovered in my cart: a bottle of guava nectar (?), an arrowroot (must have been next to the avocados), and yet another jar of mayonnaise. (I say "another jar” because there are currently four jars in my pantry as we speak – owing to the fact that I ran out six months ago, thus triggering a reminder in my brain to "buy mayonnaise” that I can’t seem to turn off.) It took me a full twenty minutes to return all those errant items to the shelves and replace them with the correct ones, and even then I got home without oregano, which was my original purpose for going to the store in the first place.
Next we come to "distracted household tasks”. No sooner did I arrive at home from the grocery store than my daughter called, so I chatted with her while I put away my groceries. Subsequently the laundry detergent went into the fridge, a carton of buttermilk ended up in the pantry and a package of cocktail weenies disappeared altogether. As we continued to visit I unloaded the dishwasher, which explains the Tupperware lids in the freezer and the soup spoons in the potato bin. Oh, that reminds me. If any of you happened to notice where I put my garlic press, please drop me an e-mail.
Another issue that seems to cause quite a bit of trouble is "distracted cooking” because at no other time does an interruption in one’s focus have the potential for such bizarre results. Ever put cumin on a piece of toast because you thought it was cinnamon? Well I have. If you don’t believe me, ask my friend Barbara. She was on the other end of the line when it happened. Much as I hate to say it, there’s a very good reason why I’ll never host my own cooking show – I simply can’t talk and cook at the same time. Never mind that I have prepared no fewer than 27,000 meals over the course of the last 37 years. Put a telephone to my ear and I can’t so much as crack an egg (unless I’m trying not to.)
And finally we come to the one I struggle with the most – "distracted writing”. Simply put, I should never attempt to talk on the phone and work on an article at the same time, and yet I do. Why, just this morning I was… (Hang on, there’s my cell phone. It’s my other sister. No problem, I’ll just finish this up while we chat.) So anyway, just this morning I was …um, I…uh…uh… Oh forget it.
That guy on the radio would declare that my ability to focus has just been diminished by a full 37%. I say it’s way more than that. Waaaay more.