Under the Sun
Dialing a nuisance when shopping, but a danger when driving
Ella looked to be about 20 years old, maybe a little bit older. She was dressed neatly in shorts and a tunic top, ruched at the bustline to flatter her slightly stocky torso, and strappy silver and black sandals.
The green cart she pushed through a weekend-busy Longs Drug Store was decorated with three Post-it notes, two in lavender, one in the common yellow. Presumably lists of things to buy, they indicated a well-organized shopping operation, but her desultory meandering from shelves to sale displays said otherwise.
Ducking down the uncongested aisle with the baby stuff, I slipped past her and the hapless shoppers bunched up in her wake, grabbed the floss I never remember to keep in stock and a roll of waxed paper, a bargain at just 99 cents. Along the way, I considered and rejected the "Ready to Eat!" tuna-salad-and-cracker combos (overpriced, overpackaged and who knows what's in it?) and, though sorely tempted, managed to leave behind the brownie mixes and Raisenets.
I turned into the middle aisle, a strategic error when maneuvering in a crowded Longs, and got stuck behind Ella. Shuffling along, trying to be patient, I waited for a break in the clogged flow of humanity that eddied around her. She chucked items into her cart seemly at random, then reached into her floral-motif microfiber handbag, hauled out a cell phone and speed- dialed.
"I'm in Longs and I'm so-o-o-so bored," she wailed into the sleek device. The person she'd called apparently didn't recognize her voice because she listened for a second or two, then bawled, "It's Ella! Ella! Talk to me. I'm in Longs. Shopping. I'm bored. Talk to me."
The diversionary conversation continued to the check-out where we parted company. Choosing badly yet again, I got in line behind a woman returning and exchanging all sorts of things.
Thus events conspired to have Ella and me leaving Longs about the same time. And, as it happened, we were parked right next to each other. She ended one conversation and re-dialed while loading her back seat with her stuff.
"Excuse me," I said as she slid behind the wheel. "If you're going, why don't you go first. I'll wait." She raised her chin and nodded, phone pressed to ear.
I waited in my car. Ella was talking. I waited some more. Ella talked some more. I clunked into reverse and began backing out. So did Ella. I jammed on the brakes, but Ella kept coming. I employed the horn, my trusty Toyota barely escaping harm.
Ella got out and phone still fused to ear, yelled at me. "You said go," she shouted, salting her language with a few blippity-blips. I said I'd waited, but she was talking.
"I talking now," she retorted. I couldn't argue with that and didn't.
She edged her car out slowly, lips moving in resumed conversation, drove to the exit, jerked to a rocking halt to avoid banging a young man with a backpack, then pulled out, weaving blithely into oncoming traffic. Last I saw Ella, she was headed for the freeway, a prime example of how distracting cell phones can be and how dialing and driving don't mix.
There ought to be a law.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org