next time ask yourself, “what would charlie umphred do?”

SOME YEARS AGO, the manufacturers of and access-providers to cell phones (“mobiles” in the most of the rest of the world) conquered America. They somehow convinced everyone from our every elected official to the highest and lowest of professionals in every company major and minor down to the homeless on the streets of Seattle that they could not live their lives without a telephone in their pocket and a three-figure monthly phone bill.

You would think that some of these folk would cherish those moments out of the office or home and NOT having to hear a phone ringing for their attention. Such has not been the case.

Now, prior to cell phones, several companies had begun manufacturing mobiles phones for installation in private automobiles at an affordable cost. My brother Charles was one of the first ‘civilians’ to have a phone installed in his car. His reason? He owned a small business in Pennsylvania (Mia Bella Candles, manufacturers of the ‘world’s finest organic scented candles’) and when away from the proximity of a land-bound phone, his attention was nonetheless needed for important decisions.

So, a phone went into his car.

So, I was back east visiting and Charles (Charlie to everybody but Mom, Dad, and me) drove me over to see his manufacturing plant on George Street in Wilkes-Barre. On Pennsylvania Boulevard, not far from where we used to play on the railroad tracks as kids, his new-fangled mobile telephone rang. I was afraid that he would answer it while driving

As someone who believes that the driver should keep his eyes and attention on the road in front behind left right at all times I do not mind confessing that I don’t even like it when a driver turns his head to his right to engage me in conversation when I am in the passenger seat! Nothing should distract a driver’s full attention from the ALWAYS potentially dangerous business of driving several thousands of pounds of metal at 30-60 mph.

Fortunately, my brother pulled to the side of the road to take the call—after which he explained that he NEVER drove and spoke on the phone at the same time. He has applied the same practice to his cell phone.

Of course, this common sense attitude is so rare it is worth remarking upon.

Which I am—here and now in this post.

So, the next time your mobile cell phone rings, vibrates, buzzes, or shakes rattles and rolls, just ask yourself, “What would Charlie Umphred do?”

And now you know the answer to the questions, “What would Charlie Umphred do?”: pull the f*ck off the road and take the call where you can’t hurt anyone!




3 Replies to “next time ask yourself, “what would charlie umphred do?””

  1. When I moved to Pittsburgh in 1973 I went to work with a mobile telephone company and pager (beeper . . . remember those?) company and wound up staying in the wireless industry until 2001.

    Anyway, this predated cellular phones by 11 years, but back in the good old days there were a limited number of UHF and VHY frequencies, so much so that the entire city of Pittsburgh had 3 (yes, count ’em) channels for mobile phone usage and about 100 users per channel. (Like having a hundred people on your party line . . . if you remember party lines). So I had this gold Ford Torino for a company car and a mobile phone installed on the transmission hump.

    Given the limited use with so many users per channel, it was more for calling into the office when our beepers went off, so we didn’t have to drive around looking for a pay phone and carry a bag of quarters all day long. (If you remember phone booths. Cripes, there is a lot of shit people may not know about!)

    Anyway, the only people who had phones in their cars back then were doctors, city officials and pimps. I was a actually stopped once by a cop in the south hills in Mt. Lebanon. Apparently he thought I was white pimp from the Hill District and wanted to know what I was doing there. When he saw that I lived in Mt. Lebanon and showed him a business card with the mobile telephone company’s name on it, he actually apologized and said he thought I was a pimp with the Gold Torino and car phone. Do I actually LOOK like a pimp?

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