- The Washington Times - Monday, June 9, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

I simply can’t take it anymore. I have decided to defect and officially renounce my citizenship. Not to the United States, but rather, to “Blackberry Nation.”

Over the course of the last year or so, I’ve noticed more and more of my friends, relatives and business colleagues morphing into the zombie-like creatures that inhabit the film “I Am Legend.” Rather than needing to feed on uninfected humans, these lost souls need to nourish their growing addiction to the small rectangle that is using their shrinking brains to host its evil and evolving technology.

I decided to plan my escape after I was unintentionally (or so I thought at the time) assaulted by two Blackberry users. During a recent six-block walk in our nation’s capital, I was twice walked into by business-suited men with their heads down and their eyes glued to the small screen in their hands.

After they pinballed me out of the crosswalk, neither person as much as said “excuse me” as they stared transfixed, waiting for what could only be the meaning of life, to be revealed by the oracle that commanded their very beings and motor functions.

Once they moved on - presumably to return to the colony - I decided to amuse myself and stand off to the side of this four-way crosswalk and observe the multitude of pedestrians navigating the rush-hour traffic. As I watched, I was horrified to see more than a few of the “Blombies” blissfully walking into the oncoming cars as they scrolled through e-mails, sports scores, or stock picks. If not for the kindness of fellow walkers, the blombies would have been taking up residence at the nearest hospital.

While we have all read about the growing threat, danger and addiction of various personal digital assistants, or PDAs (many times on the device itself), most have yet to comprehend how truly out of control it has become. One friend recently told me that he lost a $30,000-per-month client because one of his associates refused to stop scrolling through her Blackberry she tried to hide under the conference table as the CEO politely explained his business problem. The CEO noticed, rightfully became annoyed and decided to take his problem and his $30K per month to another firm with less-addicted employees.

To paraphrase the 1984 hit movie “In the Year of Darkness, 2008, the rulers of this planet devised the ultimate plan. They would reshape the Future by changing the Past. The plan required something that felt no pity. No pain. No fear. Something unstoppable. They created ‘THE BLACKBERRY.’ ”

Ironically, when the movie came out 24 years ago, there were no PDAs, no cell phones to speak of and much less addiction. America still functioned. Business still transpired. Elections were still held. Life still went on - albeit at a much simpler (and safer) pace. As a very successful and powerful lobbyist friend of mine likes to joke, “technology will be the ruin of all of us.”

For some, all too tragically, that has become the literal case. According to the NHTSA, at any given time, upwards of 10 million American drivers are using a cell phone or a PDA. This is significant and alarming because that agency has also determined that at least 25 percent of all accidents reported to the police are distraction related. According to another study, drivers using PDAs or cell phones missed many more road signs than did drunk drivers.

Having read those statistics, I now pay extra close attention on my 15-mile drive home from the office each day. I wish I didn’t, because with more and more frequency, I see drivers moving as fast as 80 mph resting their PDAs on the steering wheel as they scroll through e-mails. Some actually attempt to answer an e-mail while guiding the car with their knees, pinkies or mental telepathy.

I now have no doubts. All is lost. Blackberry nation is expanding its territory as the Blombies aggressively try to vanquish good manners, etiquette and safe commuting. Your only option is to flee the madness and wait for the technology to destroy itself -unless of course, you’re already one of them. Should that be the case, please wait until you get out of the car or walk across the street before angrily deleting this column.

Doug MacKinnon is a former White House and Pentagon official and an author.

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