Thursday, March 15, 2012

Whether Balloon

Not the company in question.

I have a note at the top of one of my to-do lists in my phone. It reads:

Vodka. Blimp

The short phrase is written that way - capital-V-vodka-period-space-capital-B-blimp-no-ending-punctuation - because I tapped it into Evernote with my right thumb while I was driving down the freeway.

Now, I'm pretty anti-texting when I'm on the road. The reason I don't drive my beloved silver Volkswagen anymore is that I sold it to my friend. She'd crashed her convertible into a creek on her way home from a party. By the time she regained consciousness and climbed up the bank, emergency vehicles were waiting for her. She knew what they must have thought. It was late in the evening, hers was the only car involved in the accident on a fairly straight road, and she was staggering unsteadily toward a phalanx of police and EMTs. "It's not what you think! I'm not drunk!" She held up her phone, still dripping from its dunking in the muddy water. "I was TEXTING!"

I hadn't had a smartphone for that long back then, so I didn't understand how easy it is to get sucked into doing things that are just a little careless. "Just put your phone in the trunk if you can't keep your hands off of it. You're not crashing MY car into a river, sister! Besides, you aren't the only person on the road, you know." It sounds funny to me now.

Anyway, I was driving home from work earlier this week, and my phone was on my lap, since it's also my music when I'm in the car. Don't judge. I set up playlists before I put it into gear.

Just to the west of the freeway, something was drifting a few hundred feet above the trees. I kept glancing over to see what it was, but it was a little too far ahead of me to be able to make out the shape. It looked like an ad balloon suspended above a new housing development, but I didn't get any closer to it as I drove up the road. When I got near enough to see that it was a blimp, moving along with the flow of traffic, I tried to figure out what it was advertising. I spent a lot of time squinting up and to the left.

I wasn't alone. I could see drivers in the cars around me doing the same thing. We were all more interested in the blimp than in our regular commute.

Here's what I don't understand about blimp advertising. Why is it targeting drivers on the freeway? Doesn't that seem inherently unsafe? Shouldn't we all be focused on the road instead of trying to figure out what's floating around at NewsCopter 7 level? I thought on that for a few minutes, while still transfixed by dirigible billboard.

That's about the time that I got close enough to read side of the airship. "(name withheld to protect the company) Vodka." Not only was this thing distracting thousands of drivers after their long workdays, but it was also making all of them think about drinking. Hell, for all I know, some of them might have pulled off the freeway and bought a fifth of (name withheld to protect the company) Vodka. At best, it's creating a legion of distracted drivers. At worst, it's creating a legion of distracted drivers unable to see that they're sharing the road with a bunch of drunks. Who thought this branch of the ad campaign was anything less than foolhardy and dangerous?

I wanted to remember to be thoroughly outraged once I got home, so that I could contact the distillery and give them a piece of my mind. "I'll forget all about it if I don't have some kind of reminder. Rubber band around my wrist? Move my purse to a different seat? What if I don't recall what those things are supposed to remind me to do? Dammit! If only I had a way to make a note. If only..."

And that's how I ended up texting while driving down the freeway, and almost ramming into the back of a Ford Focus. I was doing it for all of us, for our safety. Maybe a little bit so that the company in question would try to pay for my silence with cases of sweet, sweet liquor, sure, but mostly for our safety. You're welcome.

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