Saturday, December 11, 2010

regular law-breaker

Ira Glass and I agree on one thing--well, probably more than one thing, but this thing in particular--that the best place to listen to a radio show (or podcast) is in the car while you're driving. This is a somewhat new development for me, as anything related to driving is; most of you are probably aware that I got my first driver's license a little more than a year ago (October 19th, 2009, to be absolutely precise, after failing the road test once the month prior) and while I am somewhat more comfortable driving now than I was then, I still would not classify myself as a good driver. I am probably a better driver than your average teenage hotrod, but it's the very thing that makes me a better driving--that is to say, a surfeit of caution--that also makes me a worse driver. Anyway, I always try to be very careful. I signal my turns even in empty parking lots. I never pick up my phone while in the car, or else I pull over before answering. I have a GPS in the car that I have programmed to avoid all highways, giving me the directions from Point A to Point B only via local roads. When I see other people driving like fucktards (which is basically every fifth car), I tsk tsk them in rue.

But I do like to listen to podcasts in the car.

It wasn't that long ago that I couldn't listen to anything in the car, because so much of my concentration was focused on the actual task of driving. No music. No conversation. I dreaded having the kids in the car with me, not only because of that fear of having all my eggs in one basket (that basket being the car), but because no matter how much I explained that they had to shush, Mommy was driving, she had to concentrate, the endless monologue and stream of questions from the backseat only increased in volume.

However, I've been driving for a while now, and 95% of my driving takes a well-worn circuit between home, work, and, on occasion, Cal's school, so I'm a little more comfortable with the act of driving, at least along these routes. When I'm going somewhere new, the old rules apply (no radio, no music, no talking) but on routine drives, I will listen to a podcast or two, or occasionally sing along to music. Singing and driving at the same time! Who knew this day would ever come.

Anyway, I used to plug my iPod into the auxiliary input port of the car so that the podcasts could play through the actual car speakers, but for some reason, this stopped working, and then subsequently, I lost the auxiliary cable hookup anyway. So then I was putting my iPod on the dashboard and playing it through the actual iPod speakers, but I don't have to tell you how this turned out--tinny, muffled, and I could barely hear anything anyone was saying. So, as a final solution, I plugged in my earphones and put one earbud in my ear for the drive. The other ear was free to, you know, receive ambient sound. I did have a vague notion that this was probably not the safest thing (you know, having something in your ear while operating a car) but I rationalized that it wasn't any different than having a Bluetooth earset for hands-free phone answering, which I'm pretty sure is allowed, if holding the actual phone up to your ear while driving is not.

Anyway, I was driving home in this fashion the other day (carefully, on the right side of the street, at the speed limit) when I pulled up alongside a police car, which had stopped, waiting to turn into a gas station. We passed by in slow motion. I looked at him. He looked at me. I passed on by. He made a U-turn. The next thing I know, I saw flashing blue lights in my rearview, which I'm pretty sure is some kind of indication that you're in the deep end of the shit pool.

"Is something the matter, officer?" I asked all politely, knowing already what this was going to be about. He asked me for my license and told me that he saw that I was driving with headphones on--did I know that wasn't allowed? I said that I didn't realize that (though it made perfect sense), but that I'd only had one earbud in. Then I forced myself to stop talking, because what did I think I was going to gain from making excuses to a police officer? Just smile and nod, dumbass!

The police officer (who was very nice, by the way, and had a very charming Irish accent, like a cop out of a damn movie about the 1950's) then stopped, and asked me, "What kind of work do you do?"

"I'm a doctor."

He looked at my scrubs and nodded. "Next time, don't drive with earphones." And then he let me go without a ticket. I'm not sure me telling him what I did had anything to do with him deciding to let me go without a citation, but I guess I'll never really know, even though that's not going to stop me for feeling vaguely guilty about that possibility.

And no, I'm not going to drive with earphones anymore. In either ear.


  1. Anonymous6:15 PM

    I LOVE listening to podcasts (fellow Atlanta driver, drive down I-85 every day from work and back).

    Have you considered buying an FM transmitter for your iPod? Many of these will scan the FM radio to find a blank frequency and then broadcast your music/podcasts/audiobooks over said frequency (say, 102.5).

  2. Anonymous6:19 PM

    Ah! Good! So dangerous!!

  3. But see, that's my question, by the same rationale, doesn't that mean those hands-free Bluetooth headsets are dangerous too?

    Whatever, either way, I won't put anything in my ear parts anymore while driving. Not even Q-Tips.

  4. Anonymous7:06 PM

    Why not just wear the right ear bud? Not easily visible to potential cops.

    What's wrong with the cop not giving you a ticket because you're a dcotor? We give preferential treatment to other professionals all the time, I see no issue with a little professional courtesy on something minor like this (yes I know it's a slippery slope).

  5. That's dumb. My blackberry came with a handsfree that had 2 ear buds and that is abiding by the hands free law here in NY.

  6. Anonymous8:19 PM

    yeah I use my iPhone earbuds to have conversations hands-free all the time and although I feel it is vaguely inappropriate to have some noise blocking effect from the earbuds, it's better than using only one hand to drive to hold the phone up to the ear. I have also gotten out of a ticket once when the cop asked me what I did and I said, "I'm a doctor" and he said, "we try to protect you guys the way you protect our guys when one of us comes in, so I'm going to let you go, but just don't do it again" ("it" being making an illegal U-turn.) I do think that there is a certain amount of reciprocal respect given between doctors and cops, and that if a cop rolled in to the ED having been hurt even off duty, he would be treated just ever-so-slightly more promptly and urgently than your average pedestrian -- and there's nothing wrong with that. We are a workforce that serves the public even when it is inconvenient, dangerous or difficult for us to do so, and so are they -- and we look out for each other. That's the way it should be.

  7. Anonymous8:29 PM

    What type of car do you drive?

  8. During my first year of fellowship, I was driving home around 9 pm after a loooong day, with my pager attached to my coat lapel because I was on call, and I got pulled over for a tail light being out. I had inadvertantly left my wallet on my kitchen counter that morning, and so I piteously offered him my hospital ID badge. He looked at it, looked at me, and said, "Go home. Drive safely." And walkedaway. Heh.

  9. my friend happened to wear his scrubs to work one morning (ED trainee) and got pulled speeding and they let him off thanks to the whole doctor thing. there are some perks i guess?!

  10. I love listening to my many, many podcasts in the car. I have NPR ones for mornings, and fun music or mommy related ones for the afternoon or the office. I even have one that just has covers! What ones do you listen to?

  11. Huh - I remember way back in Driver's Ed that headphones weren't ok, but this was in essentially pre-cell phone days. I suppose one safety difference is that phones can only get _so_ loud, whereas ipods and the like have volume settings that would totally drown out honking and ambient noise. Plus, you *could* use the other earbud, since it's just hanging there.

    I'm guessing that the port might be fixable in your car, but if it's not, you could try getting one of the old-school hands free corded units, that only has 1 earbud - then it'll look like you're just using a hands-free thing with your cell.

    Regardless, congrats on getting through it without starting to babble incoherently - my approach of choice when I got pulled over for the first time.

  12. I totally got out of a speeding ticket one time when I said I was an EMT student. It felt good to be in the circle of benefits without ever working as an EMT after school.

    Hopefully PAs get this to. But that's assuming they know what a PA is. Blahhh

    And yes the law saying 1 headphone isn't allowed, but a blutetooth is is moronic.

    BTW - Nice use of "fucktard." I just introduced my aunt to that word. She thought I made it up.

  13. Good story!

    But I actually am going to ask that you not use any word that ends in -tard. Because I know you're not meaning to insult people with intellectual disabilities, you're meaning to insult selfish drivers, but you're equating selfish drivers with people who have intellectual disabilities, and that's the people with intellectual disabilities.


  14. Excellent, point taken, Liz! I will instead just refer to the bad drivers as assholes, because...they are.

  15. Anonymous6:20 PM

    One of the OBs informed us that if you get pulled over for speeding "I'm going to deliver a baby" gets you out of a ticket. I wonder if "I am going to place an epidural" works too?

  16. Anonymous9:25 PM

    moral of this story is that you should drive with however many earbuds it pleases you, as long as you have scrubs on

  17. Anonymous above: heh, you're right! In fact, I'm going to start sticking earbuds even in my non-auricular orifices!