Protect yourself from ambulatory gadget fixation syndrome

How to avoid deadly collisions with roaming PDA addicts

Not pictured: an incoming nunnery about to hit windscreen

Not pictured: an incoming nunnery about to hit windscreen

"Hey. Hey. Hey! hey! hey! Look up. Look up. Look up." That's me walking to work on a busy city street, about to get into a head-on with someone whose full attention is on the smart phone or Kindle they're holding close to their face while walking, paying no attention to where they're going.

Sometimes they don't even hear me (most of them have their headphones in), forcing me to veer widely out of their path. Sometimes they hear me, look up momentarily with a sort of glazed-over look, then return to the device. Sometimes they hear me and alter their course, shooting me a look that says: "how dare you; I was updating my Facebook." Like I had just violated one of their most basic rights.

I find myself in this scenario perhaps ten times a month now, and I'm certain it's getting worse. This makes me wonder: Are emergency rooms seeing more incidents of injuries caused by people wandering around out in the wild in the complete thrall of some gadget? Are ER doctors seeing more cases of injury related to Ambulatory Gadget Fixation Syndrome (AGFS) where gadget-entranced zombies are colliding with telephone poles or other fixed objects, colliding with other moving objects like people, bikes, subway trains and automobiles, falling off curbs or into manholes? Will we soon be seeing TV ads for law firms asking: "Have you been injured in a collision with a person suffering from AGFS? If so call 222-2222 for a free consultation."

Of course the real key to dealing with AGFS is prevention. If you see a pedestrian who is obviously suffering from the syndrome, and who is on a collision course with yourself or another moving or non-moving object, follow these three steps:

1. Yell and Wave: "Hey you with the iPhone: wake up, wake up, wake up!" All the while wave your hands in the air - it's possible that the AGFS afflicted person will see the motion in his or her peripheral vision just enough to be roused from the trance.

2. Alert others: Because everybody in the vicinity could potentially be harmed by the unpredictable course of the AGFS sufferer, it's important, as a first responder, to yell "Caution. AGFS. Incoming!" to all within hearing distance.

3. Evade: Finally, now that everyone has been warned, seek a safe path toward a place (doorways and phone booths are ideal) of minimum safe distance from the AGFS zombie, and keep your eyes on them until they pass.

If you suffer from AGFS yourself, please put that thing in your pocket and watch where you're going. Besides, life is short, it's a pretty day outside, and your next brilliant tweet can wait until you get to work - safely.

This has been a public service announcement.

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Mark Sullivan

PC World (US online)
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