Salt Lakers are living in the fast lane.

Or so says Robert V. Levine, a psychology professor at California State University, Fresno, who recently studied the pace of life and incidence of coronary heart disease in 36 U.S. cities.Amazingly enough, Salt Lake City ranks fourth in this study - behind New York City, Buffalo and Boston.

Just reading about it is enough to make your blood pressure rise. And all this time we thought we had a cloistered lifestyle in the shadow of the mountains.

Instead, we rank right up there with three Eastern metropolises.

Not only that, Los Angeles, the city that is famous in the West as going non-stop - the city that has spread so prolifically that it imitates a disease - ranks 36th!

So what happened?

How did the city that has been routinely satirized for years by entertainers as an incredibly slow place where nothing happens suddenly find itself catapulted out of the doldrums and onto the fast track?

Can Salt Lake City, with its smooth, comfortable traffic flow, its squeaky-clean reputation, its nominal crime rate and dearth of slums, and its relatively small population suddenly be measured in the same breath as New York City and Boston?

New York City and Boston - where traffic doesn't move, where crime runs rampant, where population is out of control.


It has something to do with the method of measurement.

It turns out that Levine measured just four factors to assess pace of life: the speed at which bank tellers fulfilled a request for change, the walking speed of downtown pedestrians, the talking speed of postal clerks and the proportion of people wearing wristwatches.

Levine admitted that the measurements are "quirky."

But he stood by the results, even though Salt Lake City seems an anomaly because the alleged fast lifestyle has not resulted in a high rate of coronary heart disease to compare with the other leading cities.

Also, Salt Lakers do not tend to be hostile.

Say what you will - I have trouble with this study. Not because I just can't accept the results, but because the system of measurement is unbelievably shallow.

I think Levine should have looked much more closely at Salt Lake City to correctly analyze our lifestyle.

I just need more proof.

More important than wristwatches, for instance, is how many people own Franklin Day Planners or Day-Timers? How many of them are so wedded to the planners that their very lives would collapse without them?

How many children and high school students use planners?

More important than how fast people walk, how fast do Salt Lakers drive? How often do they change lanes - without warning - and how many lanes do they change at once?

More important than how fast bank tellers give change, how many Salt Lakers hit fast-food places several times a week? How fast do they get their pizza, and how impatient do they get if it's late?

More important than how fast postal clerks talk, how busy is the expanding airport becoming? How many people are jetting in and out of the city a couple times a week as part of an increasingly hectic lifestyle?

How many people are rushing home after work, wolfing down some food, then running out to church meetings or to second jobs?

In the midst of all that, how many people are working feverishly to keep up with their neighbors materialistically? How many people feel the need to acquire things - houses, cars, furniture, video-cams, CD players and a great variety of other high-tech stuff to keep up with the frenzied pace of the rest of society?

We very well may be growing into a notably fast-paced, Type A city that is on a collision course with heart attack.

But it's not because we wear wristwatches!