Join Date: Aug 2011
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Ten Traffic Circles of Hell by Lawrence Ulrich
Pope Benedict XVI, as you may have heard, has been dispensing soulful automotive advice. Hot off the Vatican press, "Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road" offers a list of driving commandments.
This Top Ten list, still the catchiest commandment format, nails the biggies: Drunk driving, reckless driving, etc. And yes, even the bird-flipping that many of us have succumbed to in moments of personal trial.
But I confess to a shaky grasp of other papal road rules. Using your car for personal glorification is bad, as is speeding. (Look, if cars aren't for speed and glory, I might as well ride a Golden Calf). Then there's using your car as "an occasion for sin," a big strike against anyone who remembers drive-in movies.
What actions do you think deserve banishment to the traffic circles of hell? Voice your opinion!
Still, if any spiritual leader can get people to drive better, I'm all for it. Like any driver who strives to do unto others, I have precepts I wish others would follow. And it doesn't take much to spark some righteous wrath.
So invoking a columnist's right to hurl pronouncements like a Charlton Heston fastball, I've engraved my own list of sins against highway decency. Borrowing an infernal page from Dante, offenders would be banished to their appropriate level in the Nine Traffic Circles of Hell.
You're an attorney, maybe a private-equity moneylender, which already has you on a Matterhorn-steep moral slope. You buy an insanely hot and expensive car. But this pearl has been cast before swine: Rather than honor thy automotive fortune, you thumbeth your Blackberry and peek at its profane texts, all whilst straying from the path and coveting your neighbor's lane. Verily, is that burning rubber I smell, or sulfur?
Three freeway lanes are shrinking to two, as signs brighter than burning bushes have been suggesting for miles. You ignore these mystical signs, as heathens will do, and fly past a seething multitude of stopped cars. You finally stop within inches of the flashing merge arrow. Only then do you try to squeeze in line?while feigning utter surprise that your lane has disappeared. Drop one circle if you make sheepish, help-me-out hand gestures to implore your brethren to let you back in.
You drive a Camaro. Yes, I'm sure you're a good person. I just hate Camaros. Can I get a witness?
I walk through the valley of the shopping mall, yet I shall fear no evil. Until you zipped in front of me into that parking space, even though freakin' Lazarus could have seen that I was there first, meekly waiting to inherit that patch of earth. Did I mention it's the holidays, and that my kid is expecting that new action figure? Did you just flip me the bird? Fine, I'll just wander through this wilderness again?but he who goes around, comes around, pal.
You worship at the black altar of Harley-Davidson, but you're no biker. You're a normal, suburban guy hiding behind leather Village-People outfits and a wall of assaultive noise: the trashy two-cylinder soundtrack of every once-peaceful village and vacation spot. Meanwhile, you're the first to call the cops when teenagers roll down your street playing Ludacris. Fortunately for you, Hell is filled with Harleys.
That new BMW or Benz is virginal and pure. Yet you make of it a cheap prostitute, adorning it with 22-inch golden rims, smoky-eyed windows, and a glittering wing on its back. As Gabriel said: Wings are for angels and Mitsubishis.
You've spent an eternity in the fast lane, doing 59 mph, holding up charitable souls with an actual destination. Drivers flash their lights and honk, but you're holding firmer than a pillar of salt. Finally, cars attempt to pass on the right?and you respond by flooring the gas to cut off their opening. Your fate: A pointy pitchfork in your stubborn behind, attached to the hood of a burning Pinto.
You're a committed Greenie, a tireless apostle against global warming, evil corporations and any SUV. You flaunt your hippie-vegan lifestyle and fastidious demands for organic food. Your mode of transport? A decrepit, Woodstock-era VW bus that spews more pollution than a dealership full of Hummers. Drop one circle if the ashtray betrays one final hypocrisy: a pack-a-day Marlboro habit.
You buy an SUV of Ark-like proportions, insisting you need room for all the world's species, off-road capability for the coming flood, and the towing capacity and mighty V8 to tear down the very walls of Jericho. Your wife buys another, because she does the shopping. Yet your household has begat a single toddler, plus a toy poodle. The biggest burden you've ever pulled is potting soil from Home Depot. And you wouldn't dare sully your golden chariots off-road, preferring to commute with them daily at a foul, guzzling 10 miles a gallon. And if your only passenger is an extra-large Starbucks? Congratulations: The devil's got nothing on you.
Lawrence Ulrich lives in Brooklyn and writes about cars. His reviews and features appear regularly in The New York Times, Popular Science, Men's Vogue and Travel + Leisure Golf.