Saint Stan

“Do you know what scares me?”

This is not the question I wanted to hear while speeding down an icy highway with my buddy Stan.

I didn’t know what was scaring Stan, but I did know what was scaring me – his driving.

A winter storm had roared in from the Dakotas earlier that afternoon, forcing the state patrol to close and padlock the blizzard gates on I-90, but Stan found a parallel road. Since the troopers were busy covering the freeway entrances, he figured he could go as fast as he wanted.

“What scares you?” I asked.

“Las Vegas.”


“Daphne wants to go to Las Vegas over the holidays.  I don’t know if I can handle it.”

“I can see that,” I told him. “let’s just say Vegas is not built for people like you who have poor impulse control – or on second thought, maybe it is.”

“So what do I do?”

As we spoke, the box of the truck passed the cab.  Stan corrected the spin – but over compensated.  The box then passed us on the other side.

“Indulge only in moderation,” I told him, hoping he knew I was talking about more than Las Vegas.

“Ain’t nothing moderate about that town,” he said.

“You have a point there.”

A few twists of the wheel brought the truck back into line.

“Stan, what you need is a higher power.”

“How high?”

“Whatever you are comfortable with.”

Stan thought about for a while.

Then it came to him in a flash.  “Remember how the nuns said we should model our lives on the saints?  Well, I need a one now.  A saint who is completely opposite everything that is Las Vegas.”

It was not a bad idea, but I didn’t believe Stan from an instant.  I knew he was up to something; he always is –  but then again, if anyone needed a saint, it was Stan.

And not just any saint would do. What he needed was a real hard-ass, a saint whose rejection of wealth, glitz and hedonism was total.  One who could shield him from the temptations of Las Vegas.  In other words, the perfect Anti-Stan.

We listed every saint we knew and considered each of their qualities – but eventually, we had to rejected them all, because after all, this was Stan we were talking about.

Then snap!

“I’ve got it,” I cried, “remember Saint Simeon?”

“Not really.”

“He’s the guy who so rejected the pleasures of the flesh that he climbed to the top of a fifty foot pedestal and spent the rest of his life up there.”

“You mean he never came down?”


“And he lived in that tiny space his whole life?”

“He did.”


“Because instead of giving into every impulse, people like Saint Simeon pursued grace by denying themselves everything that felt good.”

“It sounds miserable.”

“It probably was – but at least he was above temptation; to be precise, fifty feet above temptation.”

“So anytime something feels way too good, I should reject it?”

“For you, that would be a good place to start.”

“Could I really become a saint?”

“Maybe not, but you can begin by driving like one.”

Daphne called that evening.

“You’ve been talking to Stan again.”

“Yes,” I confessed.

“He says he would rather live on a pedestal than go to Las Vegas with me.”

“You have to understand,” I told her, “he is afraid about what the trip might bring. He doesn’t know if he can control himself out there.  This is a sign of real progress.”

“No, it isn’t,” she said, “what he wants is to compete in the regional pool tournament being held at The Pit the same week.”

“Oh, I forgot about that.”

“I told Stan if he didn’t go to Vegas, I’d make his life more miserable than it currently is.”

“So why are you calling me?”

“I called to remind you that there are consequences for putting stupid ideas in Stan’s head.”

“Are you going to make my life miserable too?”

“You bet.”



“Get in line.”

Author: Almost Iowa

47 thoughts on “Saint Stan”

  1. Vegas scares me too, but I can’t even imagine the damage Stan could do there. Still, better to let him go than to risk the wrath of Daphne. And even though I lived in Kansas for seven years, I don’t remember blizzard gates on the highways. Is that a new thing (I’m old) or more common in northern midwest?

    1. My take on gambling is as follows: the same people who buy a lottery ticket when the chances are 100,000,000 to 1, refuse to carry an umbrella when there is a 60% chance of rain.

      As for blizzard gates, we see them all over the great plain states – but rarely in the urban areas. One has to get 50 miles outside the Twin Cities to come across the first gate. I suppose it has most to do with the lay of the land.

    1. Me: I don’t understand the appeal of Las Vegas.
      Her: But it’s exciting.
      Me: That what Scooter says while rolling around on the carcass of a dead skunk.

  2. Excellent post, Greg. One question about Dakota drivers. Why is it they go like a bat out of hell on icy roads but when they get here they drive five miles an hour under the speed limit? Huh?

  3. ‘“Could I really become a saint?”
    “Maybe not, but you can begin by driving like one.”’
    Safety first, last, and always!
    Glad you had those priorities right, or we might not have been treated to this post!!

  4. I always save your posts so I can take time reading each line and enjoying the adventure. 🙂 Stan needs you because I’m not sure the world would be okay with him out there all by himself. 🙂 And, yes, the Midwest highways just shut down. When we lived there, I remember many times they put up the gates in Hays, KS, for I70 so no one could get stuck heading to Colorado. I hadn’t thought of that in a long time. Have a great weekend and stay away from Daphne.

    1. Around here when blizzards hit, not only does the state patrol lower the blizzard gates but little towns plow snow onto the state and county highways to block traffic.

      I’m avoiding Daphne, she’s a sweetheart – until she is mad about something.

  5. I know snow fence, but I’ve never heard of blizzard gates. Are they real? It occurs to me that they’re analogous to your efforts to steer Stan in the right direction. Even if you lock the gates to temptation, he’s going to find a parallel route.

    1. Yes, blizzard gates are very real and common on the plains. Here is a photo and article from Kansas. On I35 and I-90, there are gates on all the freeway entrances and the state patrol literally padlocks the gates shut.

      But you are right about Stan, will is like water. It will always find a way.

  6. Stan had an ulterior motive, huh? That cracked me up. I think it’s an amazing skill when our supposed commitment to be a better person actually indulges our less honorable desires. 🙂 As skill to cultivate???

    1. I think it’s an amazing skill when our supposed commitment to be a better person actually indulges our less honorable desires

      It is called self-righteousness.

      At least I have to give Stan some credit on that account. His appetite for less honorable desires has always been well-grounded in humility.

    1. Me: No one wins in Las Vegas.
      Guy at The Pit: That’s not true, in 2014 I came home $1,000 richer.
      Me: Uh-huh, how much did you lose in 2013?
      Guy at The Pit: You think you are so smart.

      1. The industry is built on people winning $1,000… after losing $5,000. Personally I don’t understand the allure. I don’t gamble… ever. Never even bought a lottery ticket. If I have extra money? I’m going shopping where I know I’ll have something to show for it!

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