Nay to car cellphone ban, artificial trees

Fraser firs make great Christmas trees because they are easy to decorate and bring the smell of the pines into the house.

What about the latest recommendation from the NTSB that all 50 states enact legislation to ban the use of cellphones while driving -- even those that are handless?

It's obviously meant well, but logistically speaking, how in the world would this type of thing be enforced? There's no way. So rather than the federal government meddling in everybody's business over something that cannot possibly be enforced, why not come up with a recommendation that's at least feasible? Like banning texting.

The problem is, that's going to be difficult to enforce, too. I personally don't see where talking on a cellphone is significantly more distracting than fiddling with the GPS or sound system. But texting is a different matter entirely, requiring way too much screen time. Consequently, it's truly dangerous, and I've done it enough myself to understand that.

So if police were to help stop that sort of thing, then I'd say job well-done. But just for simple talking on the cellphone? I don't think so.

On a different subject, I heard somewhere that a ridiculously high number of people just get fed up with the Christmas season -- don't like being nice to people, resent trying to be jolly and dealing with extended family, don't like buying presents for people they don't particularly care for or -- much worse -- going into debt for that very purpose, don't like lugging the tree into the house or cleaning up the mess later on, etc., etc.

Well, bah humbug on them! A lot of the frustration is understandable, but that doesn't mean people have to be complete Scrooges. It's about the children anyway, so get over it. Individuals get into trouble doing things they shouldn't do and buying things they can't afford just so they can keep up with the Joneses while going broke in the process (or beyond broke).

In other words, as everybody knows, Christmas has gotten so outrageously commercialized that its true meaning is lost, or at least marginalized. But Lord knows the business community depends on it, particularly with the current state of the economy, so one would also hate to wish for anything other than a most gluttonous retail season.

Thankfully, one thing that has remained fairly consistent in price over the past 20 years or so is the price of Fraser fir Christmas trees, even while more and more buyers gravitate from real trees to artificial. When I was a boy, I remember my father being shocked when a good sturdy tree reached an altitude of about $20. They're obviously a lot more now but may well have gone down in price over the past couple of decades while accounting for inflation.

One thing's for certain: I'd never settle for an artificial tree because, as a family, we get too much pleasure out of the whole routine. But as important to me as anything else is the aroma a tree introduces to the house.

I'm sorry, but I do have my limits, and one of them would be to erect an artificial tree and then start spraying around artificial tree fragrance. What's next? Artificial presents? Well, in light of the above discussion, who knows!

But one thing truly amazing about the sense of smell is how it evokes a brilliant sense of recollection and the emotional ties that go with it. How many times have you come across a random fragrance that immediately wafts you back to a different time, place or circumstance, or brings to mind a given individual? It's just remarkable how the brain can do that. As corny as it may sound, a (genuine) Christmas tree fragrance instantly brings to my mind the enormous pleasures of Christmases past and the memories of all those who played roles in them.

Also, consider that the winter solstice occurred today. Starting Friday, each day will get a little longer over the next six months as we enjoy another beautiful Charleston "winter" and welcome in the light of springtime. It is a grand time of year to be in the Holy City.

Merry Christmas!

Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at