Any lingering doubt about the extent of Oprah Winfrey's powers went out like the cell phones she ordered shut off this weekend.
If Oprah wishes something, it happens. Hence, National No Phone Zone Day, which essentially took place simply because Oprah wanted it to occur. Is it a good idea to have people sign pledges saying that they will not use their cell phones while driving? Sure. But, it's more than a little hilarious (and curious) that the whims of any one person — even the great Oprah — can create a day out of thin air that cities around the country are compelled to follow.
You just don't say no to Oprah.
So Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm signs a bill banning texting while driving at General Motors' iconic headquarters, The Renaissance Center, rather than at the statehouse because Oprah's producers feel the setting makes better TV. And four other cities around the country (Atlanta, Boston Los Angeles and Washington D.C.) hold No Phone Zone Day rallies because ... well, because Oprah urges them to jump onboard her ratings train.
More amazingly, even cities that weren't selected by Team Oprah for a rally — when you get right down to it, cities that were snubbed — desperately try to please Oprah.
This is why drivers heading toward downtown tonight on 59 North are greeted by flashing electronic highway signs reading, "No Phone Zone Day." (Which caused me to try to use my cell phone to snap a picture of the blatant Bayou City Oprah kissing up — more than sort of defeating the purpose.) Yes, Houston may be a day late and a rally short, but by God, we'll cave for Oprah too!
Again, it's a noble cause. The stories used on Oprah's show of people killed by those so distracted by their texts or cell phone calls that they barely seemed to be aware they were in a car are heartwrenching. Oprah's day — and forced pledges — will do good.
It just seems to have been done in a needlessly bullying way.
As CultureMap columnist Caroline Gallay noted when this story came up in the morning meeting, Oprah could start a war if she wanted to."
Presidents wish they had this power.