I write this having completed two essential responsibilities of eligible adults — voting and giving blood — in one day, so I’m all set for at least eight weeks of self-righteousness.

And for all of you who think the political parties are diligent, even the kind lady from the Clinton County Republicans who tried directing me to the wrong polling place on Monday afternoon, try signing up to donate blood. I got a call, a postcard an e-mail and a personal reminder for Tuesday’s appointment.

I’m glad to have it, though — and not just because I’ve had to reschedule my blood appointments going back to September. Tracking down donors with such voracity is a sign of how truly important giving blood is. And unlike in politics, the people who are working so hard to remind me when to be where for my blood donation have no personal gain at stake.

Since I enjoy the view from the high horse, I’d like to tackle an ongoing debate in American society: Whether or not people should be allowed to talk on a cell phone while driving.

On one end of the spectrum are people truly concerned about safety. They see people of all ages driving with a phone on one ear and wonder what possibly could be so important that it can’t wait another few minutes. Shouldn’t 100 percent of that person’s attention be focused on the road?

Perhaps. But who among us has 100 percent of our attention on the road every time we get behind the wheel? The safety wonks say distracted driving is a real problem — few go so far as to say it’s as bad as drunk driving, but there certainly are at least some folks who would make that leap. While it’s tough to argue that most calls made or received while driving are essential, the level of distraction brought about by a cell phone is eminently debatable.

I am frequently a distracted driver. Getting past how often my mind wanders while my eyes follow the road, my car is full of distractions waiting to happen. For starters, there’s the radio. Whether it’s playing air cymbals during the Steve Miller Band’s “Take the Money and Run” or getting mentally involved in a sports-talk radio debate over Mark Prior’s ligaments, the radio sucks me in.

Beyond that, I’m a compulsive flipper. I abhor radio commercials and work the memory preset buttons like a master chef mincing scallops. While I’m able to do so without looking at the radio (a skill developed when I should have been learning how to drive a stick shift), I’m sure it would qualify as distraction. So, too, would be screwing around with the CD player if the radio doesn’t suit.

Then there’s the back seat. That’s where the 2-year-old sits, often with his school bus Leap Pad, used to drive me insane with catchy tunes like “We love the sounds that letters make, we make them every day. Find the letter that makes the sound (insert letter sound) and we’ll all shout hooray!”

If it’s a longer trip, keeping Jack happy involves feeding, which involves passing anything from pretzels to chicken nuggets to slices of deli meats over my shoulder into dirty, tiny, eager hands. Heaven forbid he gets something he doesn’t like, because then I have to stick a hand back there so he can spit it out.

And don’t get me started on feeding myself in the car. It’s another non-essential task that those of us who see ourselves as super busy must take on in order to maximize our personal efficiency. Why would we just sit there and drive when we could accomplish so much more?

And that’s the root of the problem — multitasking. I’ve perfected it as an art form (but please don’t mention it to my wife, who does not believe I can simultaneously have a meaningful conversation about slip covers while also eating popcorn, doing a crossword puzzle and deciding whether or not that home run ball flew inside the foul pole).

Many of us think our time is too precious to waste focusing on just one thing. We talk while we drive, eat while we work, listen to books on tape while we work out and generally rush everywhere so we can do twice as much twice as fast … and likely half as well.

Will I change? Doubtful. When I hop in my car to go pick up my son from grandma’s on Thursday afternoon, I need to know if he’s asleep or not so I can determine if I have time to hit the drive-through so I can get French-fry grease on my bank deposit slip at the ATM.

And as long as other people are allowed to smoke while they drive, I won’t begin to feel bad about my cell phone. I may be distracted, but at least my cell phone isn’t on fire.

Scott T. Holland’s column appears every Wednesday in the Clinton Herald. His e-mail address is scottholland@clintonherald.com.

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