Don't worry, it's not on some politically-charged right-wing issue like abortion or voter ID or dismantling the University of Wisconsin system that I find myself coming to this chance concurrence with Sen. Lasee. Unfortunately, it is an issue that makes me look every bit the dinosaur I'm afraid I'll turn into some day: those damn kids and their text messaging.
It seems the people in my phone book have dragged me, somewhat unwittingly, into the text message revolution. I fought the trend as long as I could. I went on a couple dates with a girl this summer who, it seems, was uncomfortable with any means of communication besides text messaging. Needless to say, we are no longer in regular contact.
Excepting situations where a telephone conversation is impossible (loud concerts, busy days at work, city government meetings), I see no reason to even bother with a text message - an exchange that would take thirty seconds via voice call is slowed to a ten minute button frenzy, sans the subtleties of a phone conversation. But it got to the point where someone would send me a text and then act surprised when I called them instead of testing, or annoyed that I didn't message them back within minutes.
So even though I now send the occasional text, I'm still with Sen. Lasee when it comes to the whole phenomenon, though I'm not nearly as crotchety about it as he is yet. "My attitude is, if you want to talk to somebody, it’s bad enough to talk on the cell phone," Lasee told me.
Neither Lasee nor I take it as a personal affront when someone texts in our immediate vicinity, but I find it just as alarming as he does to see someone cruising down the interstate at 75 miles an hour, eyes down, phone up, keys a'clicking. That's why Lasee has been a leader in the state legislature in pushing for a texting while driving ban in the state of Wisconsin.
Early in the text message era, when I had maybe a grand total of half a dozen text messages under my belt PERIOD, I chanced to visit St. Louis with my buddy Clinton in our most recent blitzkrieg tour of the Midwest. We stayed with a friend of his there, who was an all around decent guy, and was even good enough to drive us around the city.
Yet after a near miss on the outbound I-55 while the guy was literally engaged in a full-out text message conversation with his girlfriend, I opted to drive myself for the rest of the trip. Maybe I'm high-strung, but just riding with the guy was a white-knuckled experience as I spent more time watching the road than he did.
I guess I'm just not talented enough to safely drive and text... I wouldn't know, actually, because I've never worked up the nerve to try it - and I'm the guy who once perfected the art of downshifting around a corner while talking on a cell phone, eating a taco and balancing a Big Gulp on the steering wheel.
But at the beginning of the month, our simple neighbors to the northwest took one small step for a legislative body, but one giant leap for safety's sake...and this may be the first time I've EVER advocated something "for safety's sake." Minnesota's texting while driving ban went into effect August 1, meaning they beat us at something for the first time EVER.
This is in spite of Sen. Lasee's best efforts to push a similar ban through our state legislature during the last session, which, in his defense, wasn't exactly noted as their most productive session ever. But Lasee says the leadership in both the Republican-controlled Assembly and the Democrat-controlled Senate wanted nothing to do with a texting while driving ban - and he has some good theories as to why.
"There’s support there, on both sides," he said. "It’s just the leadership doesn’t want to deal with it. I think they do it. They text message and drive."
And while I couldn't get Lasee to name names, he promised me he will bring the issue back up during the next session. Which is good, because until there's a law against it, I'm just going to sound like a prematurely aged old coot every time I rave about someone I see committing what I consider to be a more heinous offense than speeding in a school zone.
Now get the hell off my lawn!