“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.
“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.”
“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.
“I’ve got it,” I cried, “remember Saint Simeon?”
“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?”
“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?”
“Get in line.”