Quotation of the Day

Elderly Nova Scotian Mrs. Fiedke explains why she refuses to fly out of Barcelona:

“I’m a strict believer, in fact, a Witness, but I never trust the airlines from those countries where the pilots believe in the afterlife. You are safer when they don’t. I’ve been told the Scandinavian airlines are fairly reliable in that respect.”

(Muriel Spark, The Driver’s Seat, end of Chapter IV)

Update: (7/16/06, 10:20pm)

Maybe Mrs. Fiedke is right. At least so says the BBC’s 10 Things We Didn’t Know column (þ A Sweet, Familiar Dissonance):

8. Devout Orthodox Jews are three times as likely to jaywalk as other people, according to an Israeli survey reported in the New Scientist. The researchers say it’s possibly because religious people have less fear of death.

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4 Responses to Quotation of the Day

  1. Alfred M. Kriman says:

    Last July, I wrote

    I haven’t read but a bit of either of these novels. Am I missing a pun on “driver’s seat’’ in that of [Spark]?

    The following may be considered by some to contain SPOILERS:

    Just to answer my own question, which Curculio might have answered as well: the quote from the end of ch. 4 of Driver’s Seat can be read as a comment on Lise, the central character of the novella. Lise is in the driver’s seat both actually and metaphorically at various points, and some elements of Mrs. Fiedke’s comment explain some of Lise’s behavior. It’s not a well-crafted story, so that’s as good as one might expect. Muriel Spark, incidentally, had died April 13, 2006.

  2. Rusty Mason says:

    Devout Orthodox Jews are even harangued by other Jews as being obstinate and hard to get along with; the Orthodox Jews take it as a complement. They want to be double-decker sure they are not becoming a part of their host society. They commonly refuse to pay bills on time, stand correctly in the que, show up for court dates, you name it.

  3. Alfred M. Kriman says:

    Regarding the 7/16 update: the research was summarized in the 22 Jan 2005 issue of New Scientist, 200+ words on page 16. The original work was
    Tova Rosenbloom, Dan Nemrodov, and Hadar Barkan: “For heavens sake follow the rules: pedestrians’ behavior in an ultra-orthodox and a non-orthodox city,” vol. 7, pp. 395ff Transportation research, Part F, [Traffic psychology and behaviour].

    I’ve only read the first half of the article yet, and skimmed the second half (the discussion). My impression so far is that it’s at the usual standard of scholarship (I want to end that word with a different stop) in social science. To do this research well would be hard anyway… the first, most obvious problem is that the orthodox pedestrians were studied in one city and the control group was in another city. I have seen nothing explicit regarding how the two intersections were chosen or determined to be comparable. The behavior differences are striking and real, but the interpretation is speculation based on other research. Multiple explanations are plausible, as the authors concede. Some of the cited research, however, might provide strong support for the Fiedke hypothesis.

  4. Alfred M. Kriman says:

    There are a number of ways to fill in the unstated reasoning here.  One is that pilots who believe they have an afterlife to look forward to will not make as strenuous efforts to preserve their own and their passengers’ current ones.  Another is that believing pilots might be more likely to experience rapture (though this suggests a weakness of faith on the part of Mrs. Fiedke). [This is not an exhaustive list.]

    This novel was published in 1970, after appearing in The New Yorker.  The first book in the massively best-selling Left Behind series was published in 1995, and one wonders if this bit was influential.  Left Behind begins with the way some quietly left behind on board an airline flight begin to become aware that the rapture has taken place (a passenger has disappeared).  (Iirc, as conceived in this version of modern millenarianism, rapture involves leaving behind a neatly folded pile of the clothes one was wearing.)  I imagine most people unfamiliar with the novels will at least have seen a popular bumper sticker of a few years ago — “In case of rapture this vehicle will be unpiloted” or some such.

    (Even as long ago as 1970, I suspect, Spanish pilots would probably have been almost as reliable as Scandinavian, by the stated criterion.)

    I haven’t read but a bit of either of these novels.  Am I missing a pun on “driver’s seat” in that of Sparks?

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