As a teenager in my native Mexico, there was an advertising campaign that, at least for me, worked like a charm. "Don't drink and drive," said the spots, urging the young -- and the not-so-young -- not to take the wheel if they had drunk alcohol.
It was a lesson I learned well. So much so that when we went out on the town to a bar or a nightclub, we always looked for a designated driver, or -- to be honest -- we gave the car keys to the nerdiest guy around, the one who did not like to drink and always kept his senses to drive us all safely home.
Little did I imagine then that one of the worst accidents I would ever be involved in had nothing to do with drinking and driving, but with texting and walking. And not in Mexico City, but in the Big Apple, where I've been living for the past 14 years.
This is what happened.
On Saturday night, while crossing Broadway near 148th Street in northern Manhattan, I tripped over a curb and fell face first into the asphalt. Surprisingly, I did not land on my hands or arms, because apparently my first instinct was to save my iPhone from any mishap. I fell literally on my mouth, breaking my upper lip and scratching badly my forehead, nose and chin. Luckily, I did not break a tooth, but I was close.
So, what was that super urgent text that could not wait? I can't even remember now. Probably nothing. A message to a friend who was looking for a place to have dinner that night. Nothing life threatening, of course, but apparently, it was so "very important" that I could not wait a second longer to reply. It had to be sent. ASAP.
My grandmother used to say that it was foolish to take any consolation of the misfortunes of others. But I confess that as soon as I started to recover from the fall, I realized I was in good company. A colleague reminded me of the epic fall Charlie Rose took several years ago, when he went face first into the asphalt in an effort to save his MacBook Air.
At the time, producers of "The Charlie Rose Show" confirmed to TechCrunch that Rose was bruised and battered, but that his MacBook Air had survived the accident without a scratch. As for my phone...it endured the same fate as Rose's computer and -- in retrospect -- I think my injuries were a little less noticeable than his.
While Rose was not exactly a victim of texting and walking, I realized that what happened to me is far from unusual. A study by the US Department of Transportation, quoted by the Los Angeles Times, showed that an increase in fatalities among pedestrians (4,432 pedestrian fatalities in 2011, compared to 4,109 in 2009 ) was due in part to what authorities call " distracted pedestrians," which includes people walking while talking on the phone, or sending an email or a text message (ahem, ahem).
Not surprisingly, among the cities with the highest incidence of "distracted pedestrians" was New York City, and -- sadly -- I am now one of them.
I learned recently about an Apple pending patent to develop a system that will allow us to walk and text without smashing our face, but frankly I'd rather work harder on not walking and texting and/or walking and emailing simultaneously, than mastering the art of doing all that without killing myself. After all, I guess no text, call, or email is really that important. Or is it?
So, starting today, and while my wounds are still trying to heal, I'll repeat as mantra the advertising slogan that so marked my adolescence, albeit, with a small addendum: "Don't drink and drive. Don't walk and text."
Editors' note: This story originally appeared in Spanish on CNET en Español.