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Doug Clark: One last drive-and-yak day

Tue., July 1, 2008

Aw, what’s the big whoop about driving your car while talking on a hand-held cell phone?

Big deal. Try driving with a hand-held cell phone glued to your ear while at the same time trying to take notes on your conversations.

Now that’s multitasking.

True, most of the notes I took during my two-hour motorized yak-fest Monday look like they were written in Sanskrit. But legible penmanship was never my thing, even when I’m not attempting to dial phone numbers and maneuver an Oldsmobile.

As you probably know, today marks the beginning of the latest law to mind our business.

First they take away our fireworks. Then they make us wear bike helmets. Now they’re banning drivers from holding cell phones to their ears.

Sure, drivers can still make phone calls as long as they use some sort of hands-free device like those wireless Bluetooth gizmos that hook over an ear.

Nerd Alert!

Besides looking ridiculous, Bluetooth users are often mistaken for schizophrenics as they wander around engaging in animated conversations with seemingly no one.

Sorry. I’m a hands-on guy. Now that there’s a law, I’m swearing off cell phones while driving.

But it wasn’t illegal on Monday. So I went out and drove 39 miles around town while making 23 phone calls between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

That’s right.

I was cell on wheels.

Here are some of the highlights:

“Heading east on Sprague, I dial the number that Paris Hilton gave my son, Ben, one night two years ago in Hollywood’s exclusive Hyde Lounge.

My heart is pounding. Will she answer? A mechanical voice tells me the mailbox belonging to “Ma Name is Bubba” is full.

I’ve been Paris jilted.

“After gassing up, I hit the road again and search through my phone numbers for more celebrities.

Evel Knievel, alas, is the biggest star in my phone book galaxy.

I’ll need a much better network than Verizon to reach him.

“Stopped behind a bus, I dial John Crawford. It’s a stretch, I know. But Crawford did play the sheriff in that old hit television show “The Waltons.”

A British-sounding woman answers. She tells me John would love to chat, but it will have to be after his dental appointment.

“That reminds me. Weaving north on Freya, I attempt to make my own dental appointment.

A woman at an answering agency tells me the office has taken the week off what with the Fourth of July and all.

I should have applied myself more in school. I could have found a more lucrative lazy line of work.

“Do I count Myles Kennedy, the lead singer of Alter Bridge, as a friend or a celebrity?

Passing through beautiful downtown Hillyard, I dial his number and leave a message on his voice mail.

He calls back a minute or two later.

That proves he’s a friend. No real celebrity would call someone like me back so quickly.

We shoot the breeze for six or seven minutes. Myles tells me he saw Paris Hilton at the 2004 Billboard Awards, but never actually met her.

Myles won’t use a Bluetooth device for fear of getting his brain fried with radiation, he says.

A dose of radiation could only help my brain, I tell him.

“Fresh out of celebrities I begin dialing “nobodies.”

“Mayor Verner’s on vacation,” says Catherine Gallaher, administrative secretary at Spokane’s Office of the Mayor.

It’s nice talking to Gallaher while I slither through the North Side. This woman is a true professional who always acts like she likes me.

Most of the people I communicate with don’t bother to hide the contempt.

Plus get this: Gallaher tells me she has been on the job almost seven years and has served five mayors.

Five mayors in seven years?

Some would call that a civic disgrace.

I call it job security.

“Somewhere on Lincoln Road I manage to reach City Council President Joe Shogan.

I innocently ask him what’s up. He begins talking in an excited tone about storm water plans.

You couldn’t pay me enough to be in government.

Shogan’s a stand-up guy, though.

For example: I tell him about how the local cops want to Tase me for some kind of demonstration. Shogan offers to be electrocuted right along with me when I suggest that this could be a Food Bank fundraiser.

I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the idea of being lit up like a casino. It’s not the pain I’m worried about, I tell Shogan. It’s the pants-wetting possibilities that concern me.

“On and on I go, chatting and scribbling and driving all over town.

I sing happy birthday to Bill Graves. The Oregonian reporter was my city editor back in my managing editor days. I talk to photographer Rick Singer about a photo he wants to take of me and some other street musicians.

I call a columnist pal, Jeff Kramer. We talk about family, friends, the evils of editors …

You know – the usual.

“I leave Phil Harris a voice mail message. The Spokane County Commission hasn’t been nearly as much fun without him, I say.

“Joe Brasch, my buddy and bandmate, tells me to stop the madness.

“You’ve made your point. People in America should have the right to do stupid things. So get off the road, NOW!”

“And how’s this for some unexpected thoughtfulness. While motoring south on Hamilton, Ozzie Knezovich sounded genuinely concerned about my safety.

“We’d like to keep you well,” said the Spokane County sheriff, adding dryly …

“At least until we get you Tased.”


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