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The Physics of Driving and Other Lenten Resolutions 

So we've survived Carnival, said farewell to the flesh, as it were, and Lent is in full swing. We're supposed to be sacrificing right now. The idea being ­- if my Catholic schooling recollection is correct -- that good Catholics will sacrifice as Christ sacrificed his life.

Personally, I've got my doubts as to how giving up Coca-Cola and chocolate compares to being crucified, but, as I understand it, it's the thought that counts and, in the end, we'll all be the better for it. Though, if you've spent the past two weeks lying in that nasty Bourbon Street gutter flashing your breasts for some guy from Indiana named Walter who's going to sell videos of the occasion on late-night television in between infomercials for the George Foreman grill and that goop that promises to take the hair off everything including your husband's back, I think you owe the world more than a symbolic gesture. Wouldn't it be great if you and your guilty brethren could sacrifice certain behaviors that we could all really do without?

Let's start with driving while drunk, while rubbernecking or while ignorant of the laws of physics. The reasoning behind the driving drunk part is easily understandable. It kills and maims. Stop it. It's stupid. Getting folks to give up driving while rubbernecking or while ignorant of the laws of physics may, at first, seem trivial, but I'm telling you: if half of the people trundling along the interstate out there would stop doing these things, it would save countless hours of sitting in traffic, enraged, burning environmentally damaging fossil fuels. We could be spending more quality time with our families and friends. Blood pressures would drop dramatically throughout the metro area (I know mine would).

This is about family togetherness. This is about the health of our communities. This is about waiting in an endless line of cars on I-10 only to find that you've been sitting there, tortured by commercial radio (because your cassette deck is broken) because some knuckleheads in the cars in front of you just couldn't tear themselves away from the wreck on the other side of the interstate. What are these people looking at? Can't they just go home and watch America's Funniest Traffic Pileups instead? Or better yet, pull over to the shoulder and watch the accident up close to their hearts' content?

And who am I talking about when I say driving while ignorant of physics? I'm talking about those drivers who insist upon trying to drive over bridges by hitting their brakes instead of pressing the accelerator. I have witnessed this phenomena more times than I care to remember. I figure it's got to be that they never learned that property of propulsion that says you probably ought to accelerate if you're trying to get away from the Earth's gravitational pull (which is what you're doing when you travel the up slope of a bridge). These folks who travel to the East and West Bank everyday can't be apprehensive about what's on the other side of that big bridge. They know what's on the other side. It's got to be the physics.

Another useful Lenten sacrifice? How about letting go of some cultural traditions whose time has come and gone? I know I'm dancing dangerously on the precipice of heresy here, but really. It's 2001. Shouldn't the members of the Zulu organization be giving a thought to nixing the black face and grass skirts as part of their Mardi Gras costuming? We don't need the black face -- no matter what its original intentions were. We don't need the task of trying to explain the public minstrelry to our incredulous out-of-town guests or to our children. There is, you know, an actual tribe of people in Africa called Zulu. Every year that I watch our Zulus, I wonder how the real Zulus would take to having their name attached to black face and grass skirts? And while I'm on Mardi Gras, let's go on and sacrifice the Confederate flag beads before someone tries to claim that they're a tradition, too. They're especially repulsive when tossed off a float by a white guy wearing a hooded mask. The Confederacy is dead. Get over it.

I bet there are tons more we could come up with, and, no, asking me to stop offering my three or four cents is not going to work.


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