I’d like to take a moment here to share with you something troubling I learned over the weekend: the great Australian capital city of Canberra has been invaded by a giant monster made out of toilet paper. I discovered this surprising fact courtesy of Bluetooth.
Ah, Bluetooth: one of society’s great modern advancements. A massive technological step forward. A leap into the future. A system that renders simple telephone conversations approximately as effective as asking a zoo animal how its day is going.
But before I get started on my problem with Bluetooth, namely that Neil Armstrong had better call clarity when he walked on the surface of the moon in 1969, I think it’s time that we back up for a second and discuss exactly what Bluetooth is. I am doing this for the benefit of you older readers, whose automobiles are not equipped with the latest high-tech features, such as parking sensors that go off like an air-raid siren when you’re about to hit a shrub.
So here’s the general idea of Bluetooth: I step into my car and my cellular telephone automatically pairs with my car’s electronics using a system that we non-engineers refer to as “magic.” And then, minutes later, when I am cruising along and singing the fifth chorus to “Miss American Pie” by Don McLean, my phone will ring at roughly the same volume as an IMAX feature. This will cause me to lose control of my automobile and crash, which will improve call clarity.
No, I’m kidding. What will happen is, the phone will ring, and I will press some button on the steering wheel to answer it, and suddenly my automobile has turned into a giant rolling telephone. Then you will speak to me, and I will speak to you, and you will respond by saying “WHAT?” so often that you sound like a World War II veteran at an international conference for whispering enthusiasts.
This is always how it goes, when you’re on the receiving end of a Bluetooth call. My friends always think they’re so slick, and so cool, and so futuristic when they call me from the car using Bluetooth, but the conversation always goes like this:
Me: Hey, how are you doing?
Bluetooth Friend: Microwaving bats.
Bluetooth Friend: I said: Not bad. Are you rowing with the shins of a pear?
Bluetooth Friend: I said: Are you going to the gym later?
Me: Yes, around 5. Are you?
Bluetooth Friend: I’m hoping to skin a wild turkey.
Bluetooth Friend: I said: I’m going with Jim at three. Cephalopods.
Bluetooth Friend: I said: What’s going on?
Me: Not much… you?
Bluetooth Friend: Did you know there’s a giant toilet paper monster taking over Canberra?
Bluetooth Friend: Yeah, I read it on Jalopnik.
The situation is so bad, with Bluetooth, that you kind of start to wonder whether the creator of the system, legendary inventor Steven W. Bluetooth, even had any idea what the hell he was doing. You start to wonder if he might have been a bit insane. You start to think that maybe, just maybe, he had the hearing of a colored pencil.
But we are all stuck with Bluetooth Befuddlement, as I’ve taken to calling it, and I don’t think it’s going to change anytime soon. This is because many modern jurisdictions have outlawed holding the phone in your hands while driving, which is the only real way to combat Bluetooth Befuddlement. (I know this because occasionally I insist that my friends take me off Bluetooth, and when they do it sounds like we’ve gone from yelling in a cave to standing next to one another in a soundproof recording studio.) These sorts of laws make me very upset, because it’s as if the lawmakers have no respect for my constitutional Right to Use a Hand-Held Phone When I’m Driving.
No, I’m just kidding. I know that’s not my right, because I am very aware of my rights, such as my Right to Angrily Honk at Smiling Pedestrians, my Right to Use the Self-Check Machine at the Grocery Store, my Right to Take Four Free Samples at Whole Foods and Pretend They’re for My “Friends,” my Right to Threaten My Neighbors With a Staple Gun, etc. But still, these laws are a bit troubling, because a wide range of studies have shown that Bluetooth use doesn’t actually cut down on accidents, or close calls, or distracted driving, since you’re still chatting on the cell phone rather than paying attention to the road.
Unfortunately, I don’t think any amount of studies proving anything will really change the minds of lawmakers on this issue. The reason: there is not exactly a huge lobby in state and local government for in-car cell phone users. There aren’t exactly a lot of people picketing the capitol with signs that say: “MORE IN-CAR TEXTING! MORE PHONE USE BEHIND THE WHEEL!” What you have instead is a crying mother of three talking about how her son Timmy was kidnapped in a gas station by a masked intruder, who then drove 37 miles per hour in the left lane while yammering on his cell phone.
So if you’re wondering whether Bluetooth Befuddlement will ever end, the answer is: Slot fulfills missing road crews. That’s Bluetooth for: Not until the system improves.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He divides his time between writing about cars and sitting around his house watching Gilmore Girls without any pants on. Also, he wrote this bio himself in the third person.