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You've got 61,538 hours

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columns Dickinson, 58602
The Dickinson Press
(701) 225-4205 customer support
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

Do you know how many dotted lines there are on American highways? It's hard to precisely say and I'm no math wiz but I've calculated that there are about 528 million. That's on 4 million miles of public roads and streets, according to the "National Atlas," minus a few sloppy gravel roads, times 5,280 feet in a mile, divided by 40 feet per line, (which accounts for 10 feet of dotted line plus 30 feet of space between the lines). It's quite elementary, really.

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And what's the significance of that? Nothing, except that it got me wondering how long it'd take me to drive on every road in America and what I discovered was that I could never do it in a lifetime because, even if I do live to the ripe old age of 77.7 years, which is our current national life expectancy, it'd take me 61,538 hours of driving to do it at 65 miles per hour and there are 680,652 hours in 77.7 years. Plus I'd have to use up about 30,000 of those hours on other necessary things like dozing, listening to bad sermons and speeches, watching Oprah and frying Spam.

Now, that many miles of highways makes for a lot of pavement, a lot of tax dollars to pay for the pavement (to the tune of about 19 percent of every household's income being spent on transportation) and it would seem, leaves little countryside to enjoy, since there is that much asphalt covering all of those gopher and badger holes. Not to mention the 2 million miles of oil and natural gas pipelines.

And did you know that 440,000 public school buses transport 24 million kids to and from school on those highways? Which is a pretty precious freight and emphasizes the importance of making sure that the people slapping that asphalt down all over those bunny and fox holes knows what the heck they are doing, especially those that are building and maintaining our 600,000 bridges.

Thus, at some point, driving on American highways takes a lot of faith, especially when there are automobiles coming at you at 65 miles per hour, just a few feet to the left.

You see, in the course of my lifetime, I thought I'd already seen almost every white line in America because I've been in every state except Alaska and Vermont, which isn't really a state since it's the size of most back yards. And then I remembered that I'd been in Vermont too but I haven't used up 61,538 hours of lifetime yet so I couldn't have come close to seeing every dotted line, even with all of those hours spent in the window seat of an airplane crossing the country 30,000 feet closer to the sun, which is a little to high up to try to count.

This got me focusing back on those 61,538 hours in my account and how many of those I've already used up, which is a lot, even though my four grandparents did live to an average age of 94, so I might have more left than I originally thought. But they didn't eat McDonald's burgers, absorb megatons of radioactive cell phone, television, computer and other rays or watch Oprah, which could easily cut my life in half.

And I'm wondering if it's time to plan the rest of my life's journey down to the final hour and dedicate "X" number of hours to eating, sleeping, showering, brushing my teeth and working while hoping there's enough left over for some fun, especially if I cut out those "Gong Show" re-runs, Spam frying and trick or treating.

And what would I do differently if I had all those hours back? Probably nothing because I'd still be just as uninformed as I was when I made all those stupid decisions and at any rate, I've stumbled into three times as many magical moments as I did bad ones and who'd want to trade those for 500,000 bushels of $20 wheat, two gold bricks and Madonna dressed in a weird corset.

Thus the conclusion I've come to is that I can't worry about it because enjoyment, pleasure, love, blessings, contentment and satisfaction can come from the oddest, unpredictable places. So the only thing to do is enjoy the moment, which might even include some Spam and an occasional pizza with everything on it.

-- Holten is the Dickinson State University Foundation communications director.

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