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Take time to ponder odds, ends and indispensability

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Another glorious Utah summer winds down. You get to the point where you wonder how many more you will be able to enjoy. The answer, of course, is: not enough. Most agree on one thing about old age: It's too short. We always want one more year, one more week, one more day, one more hour. That says a great deal about how much value we place on life, on getting up in the morning and on daily contacts with family, friends and neighbors.

Today, let's consider a few odds and ends. (How come you have a garage filled with "odds and ends," but no single item is either an "odd" or an "end"?)

ITEM 1. They say no one is indispensable, but Pete Suazo proves "them" wrong. No one can replace Sen. Suazo. First, he spent a lifetime building his credibility, his reputation for honesty and his talent for fairness. He used those hard-won characteristics to build bridges. Second, he somehow acquired more natural human-ness than most of his colleagues can muster by effort.

Third, more than once he kept Utah Democrats from figuratively shooting themselves in the foot . . . again. Fourth, when you were having a bad day and Pete said "Hello," the day magically improved. His friendliness was a gift granted to him and shared with everyone. Fifth, he spoke powerfully and effectively for those who need a spokesperson in our sometimes neglectful state.

We will miss Pete — as individuals and as a community in need of bridge builders.

ITEM 2. Let's see how football fans navigate the war zone created by TRAX construction after the football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium this evening. It may give new meaning to the term "road rage." Traffic is always poorly managed after sporting events. It will be even worse tonight when 40,000 fans exit the stadium.

(Road rage will become a daily occurrence when officials install a TRAX-activated traffic barrier one-half block east of the busy 1300 East intersection. Predictably, more traffic will flow through the university and along 300, 200 and 100 South streets. But no one thought of that when they decided, by default, to make 400 South a secondary traffic artery.)

ITEM 3. Which genius came up with the idea that we have to "opt out" from having all sorts of organizations use our most valuable possessions at will? Every American has by now received notices from banks, credit card companies, insurance companies, catalog purveyors, and others with the "opt out" provision buried in small type.

The notice says that unless you choose to "opt out," the company can sell your name, address, phone number, buying habits and who knows what else to other companies so they, too, can annoy you. To "opt out," you must fill out a form and spend 34 cents for stamp. That's like your auto dealership including in the small print of a sales contract a provision saying it intends to borrow your car whenever it wishes unless you "opt out" of the arrangement by mail. If congressional representatives cared more about constituents than about big money contributors, they would be up in arms about the "opt out" infringement.

ITEM 4. I mentioned above the old saying that no one is indispensable. It is not true — not by any means. Each of us is unique. There has never before been anyone like you and never again will anyone be exactly like you. Scientists may someday clone a physical body, but they can never re-create a duplicate development environment. Anyone who studies history or genealogy knows each individual contributes something only he or she can offer.

Each child is unique, and we must value each child for what he or she brings to the social fabric of life. In the continuum of life, grades, test scores, wealth, personality and physical appearance matter little. The only achievement test that matters is the one at the end of life. It asks one question: Did he or she help improve the quality of life for at least one other person? If so, his or her life was indispensable.

Dr. G. Donald Gale is president of Words, Words, Words, Inc. He was formerly editorial director at KSL, and he served on the faculties at the University of Utah and Weber State University. E-mail him at dongale@words3.com