Statistics predict that a city of 1 million should expect to lose about 105 people this year to automobile accidents. Those are the statistics, an average for the last ten years or so. Recently I was driving from Buffalo, NY to Barrie, ON, which means that I drove through a population of about 6.5 million people within two and half hours. Therefore, in my immediate circles, between now and May 1, 2016, over six hundred people will have been killed on the highways. Six hundred people!
On the way back from Barrie, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, when we were all tired, I passed two injury accidents in the Greater Toronto Area. I don’t think there were any fatalities, but there was considerable property damage, and, in one case, a rescue responder was furiously trying to pry open the car door to get to the driver. Add that as an appendix to the death toll. As soon as we had all acknowledged the wreckage, we accelerated up to speed, hurtling our automobiles toward the exchange from the 403 to the Queen Elizabeth Way, which invariably yields a thrilling experience on the western shores of Lake Ontario. Toronto, by the way, is a magnificent city.
Business, not pleasure, took me to Barrie and back, business which I needed in order to pay for my stuff and my activities, as well as all my family’s stuff, activities, and needs, all of which I am loathe to acknowledge as unnecessary; I will not say no to a single thing as long as I can drive my automobile to fulfill a contract which enables me to earn money to acquire it.
This February, on the way to a hockey tournament in the Southern Tier of New York State, we encountered a massive blizzard and plummeting temperatures. The northbound I-90 suddenly emptied of traffic. There were no automobiles, no, not one. “Uh oh,” I said to the boys. “That means there was a fatality.” A few miles down the road, there it was: an automobile exactly like mine, same make, same model, same year. What saved me, evidently, was the color: his was red, mine is green. We saw it on the news: the man’s 11-year old daughter was killed when a tractor trailer plowed into the passenger side in a “freak” accident. “Freak” accident in the middle of a gigantic snowstorm.
A roll of the dice in the heavens, I suppose, sent a gust of wind to catch his automobile at just the right moment, turning it into the path of a tractor trailer.
I looked at my 11-year old son and said, “There but for the grace of God go we.” He sits where she sat when she died.
My wife will no longer buy chocolate unless she can be confident, through certification and other means, that slaves did not produce it. But I don’t know: what certification process actually gives confidence that phones, shoes, chocolates, etc. aren’t produced by slaves?
Hence rituals, where “we now call to order this august branch of the International Men’s And/Or Women’s Horned Beast Lodge” to spend some money on communal food, pick a charity to benefit, socialize, gossip, and then disperse.
Maybe it’s as simple as “Wilma! I’m home! No, Dino! No, no!” There exists for just about everyone something done which is ritualistic, formal, expected, a something which is an effort to wash away the stench of participation in The Death Cult. Stepping in cat dirt everywhere comes to mind, which functions for poor Ren as an everyday ritual to recommence home life with his dear Stimpy.
Rituals push aside The Death Cult momentarily, creating spaces wherein we exhort one another, wherein we enjoy a respite from what evil lies beyond, wherein we love one another. Rituals can even occur within the confines of the automobile, those moments for us when the now 12-year old connects his iPod to the stereo system, adjusting its parameters until he has filled the interior space with his music. Outside is death, celebrated, encouraged, sacrificed to, and we participate in it at the expense of only one hundred people per million per year.
Well, that’s just the death toll. You know what I mean.