Crossing the border into New York on the highway, I came upon a curious road sign. Everyone has seen signs for rest stops along the way to give drivers some respite and prevent accidents. This sign, however, announced something different: a text stop.
Yes, a text stop. Not just one but many along the way. The idea is that motorists will pull over to the side of the road and take care of those urgent text messages that must be immediately answered.
In this way, the highway department evidently hopes to avoid the accidents of drivers who drive and text at the same time. As if to provide further incentive, another road sign not far behind warned motorists that three text violations will lead to immediate suspension of one’s driver’s license. One can almost imagine the smile on the bureaucrat’s face who, with this simple text stop system, believed that he solved the texting-while-driving problem.
But that is not what has happened. The text stop does not go to the root of the problem. Going down the highway, I noticed not only the signs but also the fact that the text stops were not full of relieved texters and tweeters taking full advantage of the state’s generosity. In fact, the stops were eerily empty.
And it makes sense. The nature of the text is not to stop but to instantly answer—anywhere at anytime. In what I call the “frenetic intemperance” of our times, the text is a preferred medium to communicate without emotions or complications. The fear of being disconnected with the digital world is so great that even the task of responsible driving can be interrupted. The text stop is a sad contradiction in terms.
One particularly tragic text stop was one that gave the driver the option of texting and enjoying a scenic view—in that order. The driver could choose between the virtual or real worlds. Alas, this stop was also empty as the hurried pace of life allows for neither a prolonged appreciation of beauty nor a pensive response to a terse e-message.
The text stop effect is not only found on the highway but also in our daily lives. Our rushed schedules are like hurried highways taking us to do the tasks of the day with little time to stop. But all the while we send off texts while conversing, eating and working.
We don’t need text stops in our lives. We need to simply stop. We need to reassess our lives and pay attention to those things linked to family, community and Faith that really matter and make life worth living.