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Driving  

A gentleman is always kind and considerate toward social inferiors, even when they burn the clutch while valet parking his BMW Z8. (Robb Report, page 160, September 2002)

Nothing will infuriate people more than bad driving. Plus, unlike spitting or sloppy dressing, it can get you killed. (We might like to kill people who spit and/or dress inappropriately, but, alas, that is mere fantasy.) As an astute reader you will have, no doubt, noticed some recurring themes in this book: do unto others as you would have them do to you (yes, also in that other bestseller, the one with the Old and New sections), and obey some basic rules. (We’re too gentle to call them Commandments.) This means that a red light means stop, not go really fast. Nothing that you have to say is so important that it has to be said on your cell as you race through an intersection. If you need to have an extended conversation in your car, either use a headset, or pull over to the side of the road.

Gentlemen don’t engage in obscene gestures while driving; or for that matter, at any other time. If you feel the need to drink yourself into oblivion, do so at home, or in some environment that does not require getting into a car. Drunk driving isn’t just rude, it’s deadly. So is the modern habit of talking on your cell, while drinking Starbucks, texting with your toes, and shouting at the kids who are watching a video in the backseat. Remember that a key trait of a gentleman is to do one thing at a time, and do it well; that applies to driving.

Behave the same way inside the car that you would outside the car. Most people feel the same way about being followed too closely in a car that they would if you were walking too closely behind them, except that a car is a deadly weapon. Give everyone some space.

When should you disregard these rules of gentlemanly behavior? If you’re driving to the hospital in a medical emergency. If you have a truly desperate need to use the bathroom, and the woman in the passenger seat has a sensitive olfactory system. If you’re on the way to buy Sade tickets, and they’re almost sold out. If you forgot your mom’s birthday and you’re speeding to the mall to buy a present. If your pet is late for the vet visit. Beyond these exceptions, there are few times when getting there a few minutes later will really matter. So drive at a reasonable speed and stop at red lights; the life you save may very well be your own.

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