In 2013, police departments all over the country started cracking down on driving infractions. Driving while impaired took on new meanings as phone conversations and texting were added to the list of distractions. Then it was discovered that daydreaming while driving was almost as dangerous. And so, many years later. . .
I saw the flashing blue lights in my rear view mirror, and obediently pulled over to the side of the road. I couldn’t imagine what was wrong. I hadn’t been speeding, or weaving about. Nor had I been phoning, texting, drinking coffee or engaging in sex.
The trooper who emerged from the black and white was obviously young. And big. The dark wraparound glasses that hid his eyes looked too large for his face. His expression, however, was grim.
I fished my phone out of my bag as he approached and called up my license and registration. Then I gestured to the sensor that controlled the window. The glass lowered silently.
When he stood at the side of the car, towering above it, I handed the phone to him. “What was the problem, officer?” I asked pleasantly.
He took his time syncing my phone to his handheld scanner. When he handed it back to me, he said, “You were daydreaming.”
“No, honestly, sir, I wasn’t.”
“According to my brain scanner, you were actively engaged in an activity involving the creative nodes of your cerebral cortex. That is daydreaming.”
For a moment I was silent. “But the law against driving while daydreaming isn’t due to take effect until–”
“No, ma’am.” His voice was not loud, but authoritative. “It was rushed through. It took effect today. The new law against Driving Under Daydreaming, was pushed through.”
“But I’m not a DUD,” I protested.
“The scanner doesn’t lie, ma’am.”
“No, honestly. I was planning. Thinking. I wasn’t involved in a first-person fantasy world.”
He stood there, broad shouldered and implacable, and didn’t say anything.
“Look,” I said, leaning out the window, “I’m a writer. I was outlining my next book.”
He unbent enough to look at me. “A writer? What do you write?”
“Science fiction. Y’know, space ships, robots, like that.”
“Hmph. Never read the stuff. Were you inhabiting the world you were creating?”
“Oh, no, officer, we writers can’t do that. We have to remain objective. Honest.”
“Well, you WERE distracted. You know that while you are driving you must concentrate on the road, and not on anything else.”
“I’m good at multitasking. I’m a writer. I have to be.”
He unbent more and took off his glasses. “The law against driving while multitasking is still in committee. The Driving Under Multitasking Brainwaves, or DUMB, hasn’t been passed yet.”
I had a brief vision of a bleak future in which any kind of brain activity while driving was outlawed. Where there was nothing but the blacktop and the white line in front of you. Oh, well, I thought, there would be a lot more business for yoga instructors and meditation gurus.
It might make people focus their minds, force them to take a vacation from the billions of distractions that surrounded them. Freed from the constant drain on their energies, they could devote their time to philosophy and art. There would be an explosion of creativity not seen since the Renaissance.
It could be the rebirth of civilization.
The young trooper had returned to his stiff-backed stance and was busy punching something into his scanner. “I’ve issued you a warning, ma’am. No ticket this time.”
“Thank you, officer. I think I can assure you that my mind will not be at all involved the next time I’m behind the wheel.”
“That’s good, ma’am. Remember, road safety is up to you.” He turned and marched to his vehicle.
What a good character he would make for my upcoming novel, I thought. A fine robotic member of the law enforcement community. Or perhaps a young man conflicted about his profession. Or not conflicted. Or actually make him a robot–
I shook the ideas from my head. No more planning while driving, I decided, no more multitasking.
And so, resolving never to think behind the wheel again, I drove off.