Tuesday, September 19, 2006

After my first year of college (the first time around), I decided to take a year of organic chemistry over the summer. I can no longer remember why...something to do with the apartment we had rented requiring us to pay rent for the summer. Anyway, there were four (three hour) lectures per week and three (three hour labs)...or was it four (four hour) lectures? Every Thursday was a midterm exam, and every third Thursday was a final; nine weeks of this horror. I remember thinking during these lectures that sitting at home and staring at a wall would be more interesting that watching the collection of PhDs they had rounded up to teach this course.

In retrospect, I had it all wrong. That much organic chemistry adds years to your life.


Dunbar loved shooting skeet because he hated every minute of it and the time passed so slowly. He had figured out that a single hour on the skeet-shooting range with people like Havermeyer and Appleby could be worth as much as eleven-times-seventeen years.

'I think you're crazy,' was the way Clevinger had responded to Dunbar's discovery.

'Who wants to know?' Dunbar answered.

'I mean it,' Clevinger insisted.

'Who cares?' Dunbar answered.

'I really do. I'll even go so far as to concede that life seems longer I -'

'- is longer I -'

'- is longer - Is longer? All right, is longer if it's filled with periods of boredom and discomfort, b -'

'Guess how fast?' Dunbar said suddenly.


'They go,' Dunbar explained.



'Years,' said Dunbar. 'Years, years, years.'

'Clevinger, why don't you let Dunbar alone?' Yossarian broke in. 'Don't you realize the toll this is taking?'

'It's all right,' said Dunbar magnanimously. 'I have some decades to spare. Do you know how long a year takes when it's going away?'

'And you shut up also,' Yossarian told Orr, who had begun to snigger.

'I was just thinking about that girl,' Orr said. 'That girl in Sicily. That girl in Sicily with the bald head.'

'You'd better shut up also,' Yossarian warned him.

'It's your fault,' Dunbar said to Yossarian. 'Why don't you let him snigger if he wants to? It's better than having him talking.'

'All right. Go ahead and snigger if you want to.'

'Do you know how long a year takes when it's going away?' Dunbar repeated to Clevinger. 'This long.' He snapped his fingers. 'A second ago you were stepping into college with your lungs full of fresh air. Today you're an old man.'

'Old?' asked Clevinger with surprise. 'What are you talking about?'


'I'm not old.'

'You're inches away from death every time you go on a mission. How much older can you be at your age? A half minute before that you were stepping into high school, and an unhooked brassiere was as close as you ever hoped to get to Paradise. Only a fifth of a second before that you were a small kid with a ten-week summer vacation that lasted a hundred thousand years and still ended too soon. Zip! They go rocketing by so fast. How the hell else are you ever going to slow time down?' Dunbar was almost angry when he finished.

'Well, maybe it is true,' Clevinger conceded unwillingly in a subdued tone. 'Maybe a long life does have to be filled with many unpleasant conditions if it's to seem long. But in that event, who wants one?'

'I do,' Dunbar told him.

'Why?' Clevinger asked.

'What else is there?'

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