The Free-Range Texter

Scott Gardner

The middle of the 20th century saw the beginning of what is sometimes called the “rights revolution,” a series of civil rights movements and judicial decisions that increased recognition and opportunity for a wide spectrum of people and lifestyles in many advanced societies. On the whole I am a respecter of individual freedoms and one’s doing-of-one’s-own-thing: I enjoy turning on the TV every New Year’s Eve and self-flagellating during Japan’s hours-long Kouhaku Uta Gassen (Red and White Singing Battle) just as much as the next person. One of my two main mottos is “Whatever floats your sushi boat.” (The other is “To each his own underwear.”)

But in light of several recent harrowing scenes to which I have been a witness among living, breathing, and occasionally thinking citizens of the developed world, I must express my opposition to at least one new liberty that you all seem to have claimed: Freedom to text.

I’m not talking about freedom to text what you want, or to whom you want. I am talking about the freedom to text where you want. This claimed right of perpetual and peripatetic texting is quite obviously, in my opinion, too much for humans at their present level of evolution to handle responsibly. Laws that forbid phone use while driving a car, performing surgery, eating a meatball sub, etc., deal only with the most self-evidently dangerous scenarios. It is clearly beyond our ken to do anything while concurrently thumbing messages into our phones. From the guy at Yellowstone National Park in the USA who decides, at the very moment the Old Faithful geyser is erupting, that he needs to text his friend to say “Guess what I’m looking at?”; to the entranced cellphone user who walks straight into a decorative pool at the mall; to the crazy woman I almost fatally encountered this morning who, in the middle of a typhoon, was bicycling, holding an umbrella, rounding a blind corner, and texting all at the same time . . . the evidence is clear. “Free-range texting” may sound like a noble example of an inalienable human right, but in fact, like the exchange of accurate, useful, non-monetized content on the Internet, or like that one kid’s dad’s Ferrari in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, it is a concept for which we as a species are evolutionarily unqualified.

We are, however, evolved enough to know how to attack things we don’t like with vicious satire. And so I present two songs I have composed in the wake of recent potentially life-threatening—but mostly just annoying—encounters with free-range texters. Sing along in a loud voice! And if you’re reading this on your phone while meandering through a train station, I hope you miss your train!

Phone on the Brain

(to the tune of Home on the Range)

Oh, build me a pen to put text-walkers in

Where the ambulo-scribblers must stay

Where nary is heard any human-voiced word

But their thumbs can keep tapping away


Phone, phone on the brain

It’s a mental disorder, I say

I seldom can hear when a texter draws near

But I’ve bumped into three just today


Smartphone Man

(to the tune of Piano Man)

It’s 9:00 in a sports bar, plasma TVs everywhere

This guy’s sitting alone hunched over his phone

Eyes glazed in a zombified stare

Then he takes his phone into the restroom

Starts tweeting as he enters the stall

And the difference between what he vents on his screen

And in the toilet is anyone’s call, oh la di da


Text us a meme, Mr. Smartphone Man!

Roll out the trollbait now

’Cause we’re all in the mood for a facepalm

And you’ve got us ROTFLMAO