It's not easy having a telephone in your car. Just ask Utah County Commissioner Brent Morris.
Morris has had a telephone in his car since last summer. He says he is amazed at how much more he is able to get done in a day, thanks to his car phone. However, there is a problem. Morris admits he sometimes feels like a jerk.Other drivers - drivers without phones in their cars - tend to stare, Morris said, particularly at stoplights when he is so busy talking on the phone he forgets that green means go.
I've cast a contemptuous stare or two at such people, I must admit. For me, it is enough to try to drive defensively, obey all the traffic rules and stay on the right side of the road; I doubt I could do all this and talk on the phone.
Whenever I see people talking on a car phone, I wonder who they are. I imagine they are extremely important people talking about extremely important things. However, it makes me feel better to think the person is probably talking to his wife, who's asking him to stop at the store on his way home and pick up some milk and eggs.
Morris said he has taken to parking in dark alleys, out of the sight of other motorists, when he wants to use his car phone. It may get crowded in those alleys: The sheriff's department, other commissioners and the county attorney also have car phones.
Thinking about car phones raises all sorts of questions. For instance, what happens when no one is in the car and the phone rings? I can just picture a parking lot full of empty cars, telephones ringing in unison. I asked Kelleen Beckstead, a saleswoman at Cellular One in Salt Lake City, about this.
Most people have call forwarding for their car phones, Beckstead said. So if they aren't in their cars, callers still will be able to find people where ever they are. (I think I sense a "B" horror movie in here somewhere: "The Call That Wouldn't Quit.")
She said call waiting is also available for car phones, as is call roaming. Call roaming? That, Beckstead said, allows a car-phone user to use his phone in service areas in other states. Now that's a scary thought: We could end up with wild Chevy Novas on the roam in strange cities.
Beckstead said there is a feature called "horn alert" for people like construction workers, who may not be in their cars when the phone rings but are somewhere nearby. I really like the sound of that: Horn Alert. When the phone rings, the horn begins honking. That is amazing, don't you think? What a noisy world this is going to be, with horns honking and cars ringing all because one person wants to talk to another and can't wait for him to get home. And pity foreign visitors from countries that don't have phone obsessions. When they walk by a car and it begins ringing or honking its horn, what will they think?
I told Beckstead that before we knew it there would be answering machines for car phones.
There already are car-phone answering machines, she said.
Not to be outdone, I said it surely wouldn't be long before new cars came with phones as standard equipment, like air conditioning.
The BMW 750 IL has a built-in phone, she said. A voice activated phone: You don't even have to dial, all you have to do is say "phone home," and it will. The BMW 750 IL costs $70,000; I think you should be able to say "fly home" and have it obey you.
That brings up another point - how come only people with fancy, expensive cars have car phones? I have yet to see someone driving a Volkswagen bug and talking on a car phone.
I have come up with a solution for people like me who can't afford status symbols such as BMWs with built-in phones: I call it Dixie Bell, the poor man's car phone.
It consists of two paper cups attached by a length of string. All you do is pull alongside someone you want to talk to, toss him a cup, and you're in business. The Dixie Bell car phone also is voice-activated, you don't get charged for using it, and it can be used as a drink container when you aren't talking on it.
Actually, I can't wait for the day portable washers and dryers are available for cars, and I can get some really serious work done while driving around Utah County: my laundry.