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January 26, 2007

Seven Deadly Sins

Seven Deadly Sins
and How I Finally Accepted the Fact That We Are Doomed

by Rebecca the Bookseller

At first, you think it's just another commercial. You know, like Cialis (See Our Ad in Golf Digest) or a new wonder diet (I lost 45 pounds on the Shake 'n' Bake Diet and you can too!).

Long shot of a car pulling up in front of building to park among a line of other cars. Immediately the brain is suspicious. A parking space in front of a big office building? Not since Oklahoma City, friend. And where are all the other cars, honking and making various hand gestures because the parker is gumming up the works? Next, we see the driver - handsome guy - in that ageless 40-60 bracket made possible by computer enhancements and a professional make up and hair team. Next to him, a younger woman- not too young. She's the wife, not the girlfriend. Gorgeous. Both surrounded by buttery soft leather seats and clothed in cashmere.

He looks over at her, an expression of muted triumph on his face - yeah, he's got it all. The car, the woman, the life. She looks back with a smile. She's got it all too, including the pool boy on the side. Or maybe it's the ball girl at the Tennis Club. Whatever.

What happens next is the part that is stunning. The man takes his hands off the steering wheel, like he's David Copperfield or something, and the car parallel parks itself. That's right - in case you were still trying to picture any of the players here - the Car Parallel Parks. Itself.

The commercial ends with Mr. Man saying to Mrs. Fabulous - "I remember when I had to park my own car." Smugness abounds. You can almost smell it. And it stinks.

This is it - this is what our society has come to. Of all the problems in all the world we could spend money to have the best and the brightest engineers solve, we have chosen parking an automobile that costs more than most people in the middle class spend on a house, and more than millions of people across the globe earn in a lifetime. And there's probably a tax break on the damn thing too, because they threw in something that makes the emissions cleaner.

So let's review:

Avarice? check
Gluttony? check - It doesn't have to be just about food, you know.
Sloth? check, and that should've been first - no wonder she's got to have something going outside the McMansion - any person who can't even be bothered to park his own car is not exactly going to be someone who pays attention to the details in the sack, either.
Hubris - oh yeah. Did you see that look on his face?

So I'd have to stretch to include Lust and Anger, but Envy isn't too far off the mark either.

Either way, four out of seven is enough to have you start watching for the Horsemen.

Don't get me wrong - I work and I spend money on stuff that I don't need. Please - you should see my iTunes account from last week alone. This is much bigger than that. This is - and I'm assuming, as all good Econ majors do, that the market drives the goods - an indication of how far our society has fallen. We, as a people, have collectively made the decision that automated parallel parking is something we want and are willing to pay for. I'm told by a local dealer that they have orders coming out the wazoo for this car, and they don't even have the car on the lot. And my city isn't even known for this kind of conspicuous consumption. Sure, we'll mortgage the house to see the Superbowl, but that's different. No worries about that this year.

Is it just me on this one? What do you think?

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Comments

You got it right. I thought I was the only one who was disgusted by this.

I'm proposing a new Man Law:

Men do not buy candy ass cars that do things a Man should do himself.

I'm sorry, I can't parallel park to save my life. Sign me up. I'll pay for it in hell.

(raising hand) I second JJ's motion. All in favor?

This is what technology has brought us: a car that parallel parks. My Irish....uh, Nose. Sad to say, I worked long and hard many years ago to LEARN how to parallel park, and I'm not about to let a computer chip do it for me.

What they leave out is what happens when the chip fails? And trust me, they do that. I have this sudden vision of a generation honestly not knowing HOW to park a car. And it's a little scary.

Here's what men need to know: When I was an older teenager and dreaded parallel parking, I was out on a date with a guy who so far hadn't impressed me - until he threw his arm over the back of my seat and with one deft move slid his car into a teeny tiny spot.

I was in love.

I hear you, Sarah. Nothing turns me on about a man more than skills. If a guy showed up who could fix the broken latch on the front door of this old house, I'd probably sleep with him.

Really, Sarah? Who was that stud?

Rebecca, I assume you wrote this piece before reading Calvin Trillin's Op Ed in the Times this morning. Same subject, I think.

Good morning all - I am heading south today. Geographically, but one never knows. You know how hotels are...

I'll be back next Thursday and will miss our daily chats.

Feel free to talk amongst yourselves!

Josh -

Yes - I wrote it on Tuesday, knowing I was leaving town. No time to even check the Times online today. Maybe at the airport.

And by the way, this is not the first time the mainstream media has filched my ideas. I'm just saying.

I dunno -- isn't the point of advertising to make us lust after what we don't have? And obviously people who own this car are going to be pretty angry at the ones who don't, and who can't park. Or something like that.

Anyway, while freely admitting to being as gadget-happy as the next person, I also raise my hand in praise of People With Skills. It's why I love watching all those cooking, craft, home improvement, car pimping, and motorcycle building shows.

I try not to sin (too often) but on this one, I'm with Michele. Sign me up. Need a firstborn in exchange? Deal.

It's PARALLEL PARKING folks! Didn't we have a support group forming, not so long ago?

Ummm. Stealth Marketing. These systems are designed and intended for the elderly. But when they are advertised that way, the older folks want nothing to do with them. Introduce the idea of them in ads for high end, expensive cars driven by yuppies, they will be an easier sell to Mom and Pop five years down the road when they are featured on more ordinary cars.

True story - engineer for Ford worked tirelessly to design a car that would meet the needs of his elderly father, with enhanced vision technology, near object warning systems, redesigned to be easy to get in and out of. Bursting with pride, he let his father drive the prototype. Father admitted it was nice, but wouldn't want it for himself because it was an "old people's" car.

Hmmm. A lot of kids today don't know what a pencil is, carry cellphones that text message, download ITunes, and think life is worthless without the latest XBox 360. Computers feed them info without them doing more than pressing a key, and no one gets up to change the channel anymore on the HDTV. So, given that, the next generation is poised to not only NOT parallel park but to take the next step; a programmable car that lets you punch in the destination so you can nap, watch your mini-dish player, or even indulge in a little hanky-panky behind the tinted windows. It has a handy little arm that opens the gas tank cover and chooses the fuel. (Parts of that sound pretty cool you have to admit).
However, I think people need to use their skills. Anything that makes us think is good.
Learning to do difficult things is part of what separates us from Bonzo. I may be one of those people who can't parallel park, but I don't trust two tons of steel to do it for me. Scary.
Have good time Rebecca!

Afterthought: The ad featured a man unable to parallel park. What would we all be writing now if the ad featured, uh, not the man, unable to parallel park?

And Nancy, next time I come to visit, first thing I'm checking out is whether or not that broken latch has been fixed.

Ramona, you'd better bring one of those bars people use to keep intruders from busting down their doors. Because that lock has been broken for 6 years.

Well, Nance, if any of the guys in your neighborhood read your earlier comment, you just might get yourself some offers. To fix the broken latch, I mean.

I'm with Sarah -- knowing how to parallel park is an attractive skill in a man. Even more attractive is a man who can teach me to parallel park. I failed my first driving test because I couldn't parallel park and I'd always been ridiculously nervous about it. On one of my first dates with the guy who's now my husband, he saw me struggling and said, "You want me to show you something that will change your life?" Of course I did! He described to me a failproof system for parallel parking that has, indeed, changed my life. For Michele, here it is: snuggle up close to the car in front of you. Straighten out your wheels and back up until the other car's rear bumper is in the exact center of your back right window. Stop. Turn your wheels all the way to the right and back up until the other car's rear bumper in in the exact center of the front passenger side window. Stop. Turn your wheels all the way to the left. Back up. You'll be perfectly parked. In any kind of spot. I swear. He learned it from the driver's ed teacher at Hanover High, Michele!

This car sure has no appeal for me, of course I'm still pissed that when we bought our Toyota Sienna (the "cruising vessel" not a minivan thank you very much) we had to go with an automatic transmission. The salesman kindly told me that "no one wants a standard transmission anymore and Toyota may stop making them altogether." Which is a shame because when the day comes that my dear hubby and I once more need two cars, you can bet our second car will be a five-speed. Nothing like the power of changing gears, down shifting etc. Ah the freedom, I love it.

Hmm, who knew I felt so strongly about this? As for parallel parking, I too failed my first drivers ed test because of parallel parking. But then I moved to Baltimore City and had to learn really quick to parallel park on both sides of a one way street.

Good luck with that latch Nancy.
Sarah F.

Sarah S T: what if the street is one-way, and the space is on the left?

I wanted a stick when I got my Scion xB last summer, but my wife told me that she would never ever drive it. So I caved and got the automatic and skipped the $430 "Bazooka" subwoofer, which is still on my wish list. No reason your paint shouldn't peel when I come down your block. That's why you buy an Xb, anyway. It is easy to park, though.

Our Prius doesn't have gears. It takes some getting used to the car's never shifting. It doesn't take much getting used to the 47 mpg I got on my trip to Florida this summer.

Good question Josh -- just reverse the directios, i.e. turn your wheels in the opposite direction. It still works.

OK, Sarah, I printed that out and I'm putting it in my glove compartment. Problem is, if I ever have to do it backwards, I'm sunk.

Hey, all you Luddites, I have to say I come out in a really different place. Let the technology do all that boring stuff, and let's free our minds to solve the real problems in the world and our hands to eat some Orville Redenbacher. I don't see the virtue in getting up to change the channel when I can point my clicker any more than I see it in beating my laundry against a stone down by the river. What's wrong with a little convenience? Would you give up your dishwasher? Your answering machine? Your high-speed internet? I like my gadgets, and if you try to take 'em away you'll have to pry 'em out of my cold, dead hands. (Especially my GPS Carlos, who I'm truly passionate about).

I'm not saying I DO get up to change the channel...although I am in the minority when it comes to dishwashers. Mine is manual...and his name is Chuck! :o) And I love my laptop. And my PT Cruiser with cruise control.And Boeing 777s. I just like to do the little things myself, like read a book instead of having it read to me, or go to the supermarket instead of having groceries delivered. My mom was a big believer in 'doing', so maybe it's genetic. Besides...too much reliance on machines leads to The Terminator :o)

I have nothing against technology and am very able using most of it. However, I knew it was all downhill when velcro replaced shoe laces, producing generations that can't tie their own shoes.

Hmm, who knew I felt so strongly about this? As for parallel parking, I too failed my first drivers ed test because of parallel parking. But then I moved to Baltimore City and had to learn really quick to parallel park on both sides of a one way street.

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