On suffering

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A classic George Ostrom column, from March, 1989...

In penance for spending two days enjoying life to the fullest at the Charlie Russell Auction and Art Show in Great Falls, I spent the next two days doing research on suffering. You folks are the beneficiaries of what I learned last Sunday and Monday. Use this knowledge wisely.

A “lone man” whose car is broken down on I-15, five miles south of the Power exit, in below-freezing weather during a light snow storm has a good chance of being rescued in two hours and 20 minutes. During that time on a Sunday morning, only one car will stop if he is sitting inside the vehicle to get warm, but three will stop if he is standing outside looking bewildered and sad. Also, 135 vehicles will go right past, but four of them will slow down. This come out to an average of one really good Samaritan to each 33.5 uncaring, ornery old poops.

Two young men who tell him they will send out a wrecker from Dutton are not successful in doing that, but the deputy sheriff who come along at the end of two and a half hours will get the wrecker from Dutton, and that fella will tow his car back to Great Falls for 80 dollars. The first fellow “the lone man” talks to in a service station will tell him that fixing the car will be around $1,200, but the kid manning the full-service pump knows a guy who has an engine shop right across the street who can fix anything and charge bottom dollar. The mechanic’s name is Dan Kleinjen, and Dan says over the phone he will look at the broken-down car on Monday morning at 8:30.

Dan shows up on time and asks, “What happened?” The car’s owner says, “This is my wife’s Mercury station wagon and I was driving it back to Kalispell when there was a loud bang in the engine and oil flew out, and the car won’t run. I would like to get it fixed and get on my way by noon.”

Dan said, “I might get it fixed by Tuesday night.”

My research shows that if a grown “lone man” toadies, pleas and begs hard enough, Dan Kleinjen can unhook the dozens of clamps, wires, hoses, fan belts and rods, take out the old oily engine and the radiator, then put in a used engine out of a wrecked car, hook everything back up and have the car running like a top in nine hours. He will charge a tear-stained “lone man” slightly under $475.

One other thing... mechanics in Great Falls, Montana do no like to be kissed by another man.

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