On the grounds of Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire, England, a huge, 20-foot-high modern art sculpture of two clasped hands that used to form a kind of galvanized steel wire archway over one of the walking paths had to be moved.
Why? Not because it was ill-suited to the classic and graceful lines of the church — although it definitely was. No, it had to be moved because texting people kept walking into it and hitting their heads because they weren’t paying attention. It’s part of a trend. In 2014, 2,500 people went to emergency rooms for injuries they sustained because they were distracted by their cellphones while walking. This occurs even though texting walkers tend to change their stride to protect themselves while walking, because they know they are putting themselves at risk of, say, stumbling into an open manhole. But even baby steps can’t save you when your attention is fully occupied by your cellphone’s buzz and a friend’s emoticon and LOL that apparently demand an immediate response even as you are walking down the street.
Should the clasped hands sculpture have been moved? Yes, of course — but because it was butt-ugly and should never have been put there in the first place, not because members of the Constantly Texting Brigade were walking into it. In fact, you could argue that we would be doing the texting addicts a service if we installed more fire hydrants, sculptures, canopies, abutments, and crotch-height traffic bollards along our sidewalks and pathways. After having a few painful but non-lethal encounters with objects in plain sight that attentive, non-texting pedestrians can easily detect and avoid, maybe the texters would come to realize that they should just put away their damned phones while they’re walking, interact with their surroundings, and pay attention for a change.