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Oh-My-God! This Is It?

November 30, 2003

Bad news on the afterlife front. A national poll finds most Americans believe there is a heaven, a hell and life after death. Worse, nearly two-thirds of Americans figure they're going to the good place.

Well, that's just fine. You live a good, decent life for years down here, slowing for pedestrians, biting your tongue in meetings, buying those awful Girl Scout mint cookies anyway and tipping fairly, even after your family leaves the table, and what's the great eternal reward? Two-thirds of everything goes up there with you -- the traffic, crowds, litterers, smog, smokers, cellphone addicts, parents oblivious to screaming kids. They all get in, too.

Makes you think: How hellish can hell be if it's got one-third the traffic? Remember those three aging cars overloaded with theater-scale sound systems and fuzzy dice on the way home Friday? Two of them will be up there as well. Just super.

Figure, what, maybe 15% of Americans overstate their personal worth during the end-of-life goodness audit. That still means a Costco parking lot is more exclusive than the comfortable afterlife place with low prices, no strikes and free, home-delivered Starbucks. Do you suppose two-thirds of frequent-flier miles carry over too?

To be sure, this is just a recent poll by California's Barna Research Group of 1,000 Americans in 48 states. Hawaiians were excluded, probably because they know they're already in heaven, and Alaskans were omitted because they're already you-know-where.

Disturbingly, although 64% of Americans feel they have a nonrefundable, aisle-seat reservation to the good zone, only 0.5% admit their ticket to hell is punched for sure. This means two things: One, there's going to be a lot of parking available down there for bikers and Raider fans. And, two, clearly quite a few folks have opted to stay in Barstow after death.

What's the point of having a frequent do-gooder club for an exclusive eternity if you're going to let two out of three applicants in on a self-grading system? Isn't heaven supposed to be free of crime, suffering, traffic reports, Larry King interviews? "How did you feel after dying?"

Imagine the cost of heavenly housing -- all with drop-dead views -- and California-style crowds bidding on them. And picture getting around up there. Taking away, say, a third of the Friday afternoon traffic on the 405 Freeway only opens up onramps. Still, no one can move. Is that heaven?

What we need is a meter system for the Pearly Gate offramps. Two out of every three arriving vehicles get red lights and must keep going south. Only one of three cars (but no Winnebagos) gets the green admittance. That would also save on HeavenTrans infrastructure spending.

Budget deficits, after all, should be confined to hell and Sacramento.

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