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Differences of opinion along the bell curve

"I just want to thank you," I said to the older gentleman whose house I had come to, back when I was in the plumbing and heating business. He had asked me to come and give him a price on what was then a revolution in the heating world, the Lennox Pulse furnace, the first 90-plus efficient gas furnace. His house was tiny. Two bedrooms, a dirt cellar under only part of the house, a small living room and a small kitchen.

"I want the 80,000-BTU one," he stated emphatically to me, the only problem being that I knew that 80,000 BTUs would heat about six of his houses; the noise that this larger Pulse made would drive him crazy, and the constant short on-off cycling would wreak havoc with the blower motor, not to mention the drafty feeling that the larger blower would cause him.

I did my best to point out that I had much smaller furnaces in his immediate neighbor's houses; that he would get by for less money; that the furnace would be more comfortable, etc., etc. Nothing would change his mind. I stuck my hand out to him, put a big smile on my face, and thanked him. He seemed unsure why, knowing that his opinion on all this was definitely contrary to mine. I said matter of factly to him: "Thank you for letting me know right up front that you and I are not going to get along on this." And I left.

Sure enough, he called me a year later to ask if I would come and look at his furnace. I was a bit confused, and asked him what furnace he had. It turned out that he had found another Lennox dealer in another town who gave him exactly what he wanted. Then he found out that it did exactly what I told him it would do, and the other dealer was ignoring him.

When two people of similar intellect and opposite opinion meet, such situations occur.

It seems there is some precedent in my family tree for my rather unproductive-at-times approach to other people. My father's father's brother was a farmer. As a bachelor, he developed some rather crusty opinions. As a little boy, I remember going along with dad -- also a farmer -- to see him. There were other people there, whom Uncle Wilbur met for the first time. "What do you do?" asked Uncle Wilbur of one of these men. He said he was a salesman, or something, something other than a farmer, that is. Uncle Wilbur looked him in the eye, smiled, and replied, "Then you don't amount to much, do you." Then he laughed his breathing-in laugh.

There are some things one cannot say, and some things that one can. Some of the things that one shouldn't say can be said if one is smiling. Uncle Wilbur, as I remember it, was a firm believer in that approach, and I've incorporated that in my grateful-we're-not-going-to-get-along philosophy.

Speaking of not getting along, I've always said that our state legislature draws more than its fair share of certain types. It appears that, with the latest snit between Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas, and Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, that I may have to add another category. Just what, I'm afraid to say, but chances are it will have something to do with where our state legislators find themselves located on the bell curve, which, in brief, states that IQ-wise, there are a lot of people located at and around average, which gives the curve an upward bell shape, and decreasingly fewer people with higher IQs, and lower IQs.

A lot of life involves you discovering as soon as possible, no matter where you are on this curve, where someone else is located, before it's too late. As an example, refer back to the gentleman who wanted the wrong furnace, finding someone willing to sell it to him. (No, ignorance is not an excuse.)

Now let's talk about words that shouldn't be used, regardless of whether or not one is smiling, which Ms. Rest has now discovered for herself. For example, we don't use the n-word anymore, no matter what, or where, or when.

Ms. Rest, in arguing against budget cuts that Republicans want to apply to those with mental illness, described how those institutions had come a long way from places for the idiots, imbeciles, and the insane, and should be protected. The "i" word.

Regardless of whether or not she was smiling, she shouldn't have used those words. Well, thank you, Ms. Rest.

Ms. Hoffman, in demonstrating her location on the bell curve in an it-takes-one-to-know-one reaction, couldn't pass up pointing out that these are words that shouldn't be used by sending out a Twitter stating that Ms. Rest called the mentally ill idiots and imbeciles.

In the book, "The Bell Curve," by Herrnstein and Murray, they point out that different occupations have different IQs.

None of their studies examined state legislatures.

I wonder if it's too late.