The Dangers of Playing It Safe

 

I had a rough week last week. No no, scratch that. I had a perfectly awful week last week. To be even more descriptive, last week was the perfect storm of Murphy’s Law and Keystone Cop management. Murphy’s Law, you remember, says that, “If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong.” The Keystone Cop approach to management means that Murphy was an optimist.

Briefly summarizing the incident; several hours into my work day, my truck developed a substantial antifreeze leak. I alerted the dispatcher, who promptly ignored the problem and kept sending me on loads (perfectly in keeping with an established attitude that is undaunted by reality and unmoved by contradictory facts). The truck overheated on the highway resulting in very costly repairs, lost freight revenue, and a glorious night spent parked on a pile of dirt with no facilities available. The crowning glory was that after the truck was dead, I kept getting these incessant phone calls from the same dispatcher who refused my request for maintenance wanting to know when I was going to deliver various loads. I believe this is what they call doubling down on stupid.

The more I thought about it after finally arriving home, the angrier I became so that finally, in a prize-winning eruption of frustration at the colossal idiocy of it all, I wrote a scathing account on my website, complete with the observation that:

Common sense, which is to say the petrified and ossified mental gyrations that keep the hamster wheel moving without engaging any of the consequential thought processes that lead to exceptionalism, is exactly as my friend said. It’s just as common as the vulgarians who inhabit late night television; or the loud-mouth at the end of the bar; or the mid-level functionary who, with blinders affixed, trudges on dogmatically toward disaster. Good sense, on the other hand, reminds us that, in the words of an old scientific paper on earthquakes, “If You Build Your House on a Crack in the Earth, It’s Your Own Fault.” Which, I suppose, is why it’s called Good Sense. And why it’s so rare.

It was a perspective I first heard from my long-time friend and mentor, Bob Lee. Common sense, he maintained, is the problem. Any half-witted meathead can have common sense after all, and a great many of them frequently do. That’s why it’s common. What we need instead, Bob would say, is good sense.

As my temper has subsided, however, I’ve had time to reflect cooly on the matter and have reached some conclusions that aren’t so much different from yesterday’s tirade as they are an outgrowth of it. In fact, my conclusions now run sort of parallel to Bob’s admonishment about common sense. Then again, as physiologist Martin Fischer reminded us, “A conclusion is the place where you got tired thinking.”

Nevertheless, I suspect that the drab “common sense,” that my dispatcher so monotonously utilizes is really nothing more than an exercise in playing the safe game. It’s easier to tell the driver to shut up with complicating realities than it is to look upper management in the eye and say that we have a truck that needs immediate attention because broken trucks can’t deliver any freight. Then again, it’s harder to explain why we now have a truck that is totally out of commission and why our repair costs are now much higher than they would have been had we addressed the issue when the driver requested.

This extends far beyond trucking, of course:

It was infinitely easier for Mr. Chamberlain to obtain a signature and a promise from Adolph Hitler to restrain his territorial ambitions than to aggressively shut down his military reconstruction early on. Then again, it’s harder to explain why millions of lives were lost in a world war and a genocidal holocaust in light of the fact that, as Winston Churchill observed, there was a never a war so easy to prevent.

It was easier to sign meaningless pieces of paper with North Korea and pretend not to notice as they obtained nuclear weapons and increased their stockpile. Then again, it’s harder to rein in a lunatic with nuclear weapons and explain to the American people why the danger is so much greater now than it would have been had we stiffened our spine back in 1994.

It’s easier to pretend that the Constitution is a living, breathing document and win the approving smiles of progressive opinion, than to stand fast on the foundation that certain facets of a person’s life are off-limits to the federal government. Then again, it will be difficult to explain to future generations how and why we let their freedom slip through our fingers.

It is easier to go along with the bureaucratic inertia and the inexorable expansion of the public sector to pass a 2,230 page, $1.3 trillion omnibus bill thereby avoiding a government shut down and terribly unpleasant press coverage than it is to explain fiscal reality. Then again, when the federal government finally runs out of “other people’s money,” to use Lady Thatcher’s formulation, it will be harder to explain to our grandchildren and their children why they must suffer for our pitiful and stupid excesses.

It’s easier to pretend that Social Security will remain solvent indefinitely or tinker at the margins than to explain that the system, as currently structured and funded is unsustainable. Then again, it will be much harder sometime around the year 2033, when funds for Disability Insurance and Old Age Security Insurance are predicted to be totally depleted, to explain why the catastrophe was not prevented long ago.

It’s easier to give in to teacher’s unions, left wing cranks and starry-eyed student platitudes than to stand one’s ground and against the intellectual atrophy and sclerotic administration that is destroying American education. Then again, it will be more difficult to explain to Johnny why he has a such a difficult time competing for high paying work in a global economy — chiefly because Johnny can’t understand what the hell you’re saying in the first place.

And of course it’s easier to genuflect to the gods of diversity who dictate that every government agency, every hospital, every police department, every organization, business, school, sector and bureau relentlessly pursue diversity of pigmentation, ethnicity, and sexual orientation than to prefer colorblind excellence over a trendy pursuit of Noah’s Ark. Then again, as the remaining safe havens of excellent products and services become lost in a rising tide of mediocrity, who will care?

There are 38 comments.

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  1. Coolidge

    And it’s a lot easier to blame the dispatcher than it is to accept the blame yourself for continuing to drive a truck with a “substantial” coolant leak. What were you thinking?

    And it’s easier to blame the “others” for a living Constitution than to admit that the voters get what they want in the end.

    • #1
    • April 23, 2018 at 12:17 pm
    • 1 like
  2. Inactive

    Skyler (View Comment):

    And it’s a lot easier to blame the dispatcher than it is to accept the blame yourself for continuing to drive a truck with a “substantial” coolant leak. What were you thinking?

    And it’s easier to blame the “others” for a living Constitution than to admit that the voters get what they want in the end.

    Have you ever been working in a career path where switching jobs would only get you a new idiot over you with a new name, and going to the top Puppet Master at the original job only gets you fired?

    I’d agree with you if he was flying a computer plane where others could get killed, but in this case, he pretty much knew he would be breaking down somewhere a long the road.

    • #2
    • April 23, 2018 at 12:31 pm
    • Like
  3. Member

    Skyler (View Comment):
    And it’s easier to blame the “others” for a living Constitution than to admit that the voters get what they want in the end.

    The point of the Constitution is to indicate that the voters cannot have certain things no matter how much they want them.
     

    • #3
    • April 23, 2018 at 12:32 pm
    • 5 likes
  4. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Skyler (View Comment):

    And it’s a lot easier to blame the dispatcher than it is to accept the blame yourself for continuing to drive a truck with a “substantial” coolant leak. What were you thinking?

    And it’s easier to blame the “others” for a living Constitution than to admit that the voters get what they want in the end.

    That’s a very good point, and one that I’ve thought through before, during and since. I have lost track of the number of battles I’ve fought over maintenance issues, hours of service and more. It’s always a fight, and always extremely stressful. For better or worse, I simply grew tired of fighting. I’ve never seen anyone so dogmatically impervious to reality nor so unconcerned with anything except pushing people and machines past the point of reason and legality. I push back hard on legality and safe conditions (e.g. ice, etc),…but in a very real sense, it’s a daily battle and I’m worn down from fighting him. But you do raise a very good point here. 

    • #4
    • April 23, 2018 at 12:34 pm
    • 10 likes
  5. Inactive

    Dave Carter (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    And it’s a lot easier to blame the dispatcher than it is to accept the blame yourself for continuing to drive a truck with a “substantial” coolant leak. What were you thinking?

    And it’s easier to blame the “others” for a living Constitution than to admit that the voters get what they want in the end.

    That’s a very good point, and one that I’ve thought through before, during and since. I have lost track of the number of battles I’ve fought over maintenance issues, hours of service and more. It’s always a fight, and always extremely stressful. For better or worse, I simply grew tired of fighting. I’ve never seen anyone so dogmatically impervious to reality nor so unconcerned with anything except pushing people and machines past the point of reason and legality. I push back hard on legality and safe conditions (e.g. ice, etc),…but in a very real sense, it’s a daily battle and I’m worn down from fighting him. But you do raise a very good point here.

    In the healthcare field, dealing with the morons who ran the nursing agencies was a similar experience. Once I had the experience and references, I went out on my own.

    Of course, for me the start-up expenses were marginal, so I understand why so many sit tight at the jobs they now hold.

    • #5
    • April 23, 2018 at 12:41 pm
    • 4 likes
  6. Member

    Dave Carter (View Comment):
    For better or worse, I simply grew tired of fighting.

    You really need to get out of that place, brother.

    • #6
    • April 23, 2018 at 12:50 pm
    • 3 likes
  7. Coolidge

    Joe P (View Comment):

    In the healthcare field, dealing with the morons who ran the nursing agencies was a similar experience. Once I had the experience and references, I went out on my own.

    Of course, for me the start-up expenses were marginal, so I understand why so many sit tight at the jobs they now hold.

    Well of course. Just like it’s the dispatcher’s job to direct a truck to obvious maintenance. But that doesn’t mean we can sit back and blame solely the dispatcher or the democrats. There’s plenty of blame to go around.

    I certainly understand Dave’s position, especially after his response. And I certainly understand, and indulge in, blaming democrats and republicans for what they’ve done to our nation. But in the end, we are the ones to safeguard our Constitution, not the politicians, whether it’s “too hard” or inconvenient or not. We may have a Constitution that forbids certain things, but as long as we accept those forbidden things there’s no one else that will stop them.

    • #7
    • April 23, 2018 at 12:51 pm
    • 1 like
  8. Member

    And of course it’s easier to genuflect to the gods of diversity who dictate that every government agency, every hospital, every police department, every organization, business, school, sector and bureau relentlessly pursue diversity of pigmentation, ethnicity, and sexual orientation than to prefer colorblind excellence over a trendy pursuit of Noah’s Ark. Then again, as the remaining safe havens of excellent products and services become lost in a rising tide of mediocrity, who will care?

    The Gods of the Copy Book Headings?

    • #8
    • April 23, 2018 at 1:04 pm
    • Like
  9. Member
    CRD

    Dave Carter (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    And it’s a lot easier to blame the dispatcher than it is to accept the blame yourself for continuing to drive a truck with a “substantial” coolant leak. What were you thinking?

    And it’s easier to blame the “others” for a living Constitution than to admit that the voters get what they want in the end.

    That’s a very good point, and one that I’ve thought through before, during and since. I have lost track of the number of battles I’ve fought over maintenance issues, hours of service and more. It’s always a fight, and always extremely stressful. For better or worse, I simply grew tired of fighting. I’ve never seen anyone so dogmatically impervious to reality nor so unconcerned with anything except pushing people and machines past the point of reason and legality. I push back hard on legality and safe conditions (e.g. ice, etc),…but in a very real sense, it’s a daily battle and I’m worn down from fighting him. But you do raise a very good point here.

    I think what I like even better than your posts are your responses to negative comments. Mr. Carter, you’re a gem!

    • #9
    • April 23, 2018 at 1:04 pm
    • 1 like
  10. Coolidge

    Excellent post, Sir David of Carter. Problem is though, I got more and more depressed the further I read. (This in no way takes away from your utter frustration yesterday.)

    To all those in any bureaucracy we may wish to tell them that there are some Neville Chamberlain awards that they can pick up in the front of the hall, your dispatcher perhaps near the front of the line

    • #10
    • April 23, 2018 at 1:11 pm
    • 2 likes
  11. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Dave Carter (View Comment):
    For better or worse, I simply grew tired of fighting.

    You really need to get out of that place, brother.

    I’m delivering resumés and interviewing in other lines of work today, tomorrow, and every spare moment I get. I’ve had about as much fun as I can stand in the current situation. 

    • #11
    • April 23, 2018 at 1:11 pm
    • 9 likes
  12. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    CRD (View Comment):

    Dave Carter (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    And it’s a lot easier to blame the dispatcher than it is to accept the blame yourself for continuing to drive a truck with a “substantial” coolant leak. What were you thinking?

    And it’s easier to blame the “others” for a living Constitution than to admit that the voters get what they want in the end.

    That’s a very good point, and one that I’ve thought through before, during and since. I have lost track of the number of battles I’ve fought over maintenance issues, hours of service and more. It’s always a fight, and always extremely stressful. For better or worse, I simply grew tired of fighting. I’ve never seen anyone so dogmatically impervious to reality nor so unconcerned with anything except pushing people and machines past the point of reason and legality. I push back hard on legality and safe conditions (e.g. ice, etc),…but in a very real sense, it’s a daily battle and I’m worn down from fighting him. But you do raise a very good point here.

    I think what I like even better than your posts are your responses to negative comments. Mr. Carter, you’re a gem!

    You’re very kind.

    • #12
    • April 23, 2018 at 1:14 pm
    • Like
  13. Coolidge

    This also reminds me – Back in 1992 in Chicago, the head of the applicable agency knew of a potentially serious structural problem with a railroad tunnel that ran alongside an underground river two weeks before the river broke through it, flooding hundreds of downtown Chicago buildings and causing billions of dollars in damage. During those two weeks he began the paperwork for competitive bids to repair the tunnel, as procedure directed he do. Those repairs, if done immediately, would have only cost the city several thousand dollars. 

    (Does anyone know whether there are some similarities between this and the Big Dig in Boston, or the bridge in Minneapolis.)

    • #13
    • April 23, 2018 at 1:17 pm
    • 3 likes
  14. Coolidge

    CRD (View Comment):

    Dave Carter (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    And it’s a lot easier to blame the dispatcher than it is to accept the blame yourself for continuing to drive a truck with a “substantial” coolant leak. What were you thinking?

    And it’s easier to blame the “others” for a living Constitution than to admit that the voters get what they want in the end.

    That’s a very good point, and one that I’ve thought through before, during and since. I have lost track of the number of battles I’ve fought over maintenance issues, hours of service and more. It’s always a fight, and always extremely stressful. For better or worse, I simply grew tired of fighting. I’ve never seen anyone so dogmatically impervious to reality nor so unconcerned with anything except pushing people and machines past the point of reason and legality. I push back hard on legality and safe conditions (e.g. ice, etc),…but in a very real sense, it’s a daily battle and I’m worn down from fighting him. But you do raise a very good point here.

    I think what I like even better than your posts are your responses to negative comments. Mr. Carter, you’re a gem!

    Not negative. It was conversation. I don’t think Dave is so thin skinned as to have not realized the point I made. I was just pulling it out to make a further point.

    • #14
    • April 23, 2018 at 1:25 pm
    • Like
  15. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    barbara lydick (View Comment):

    Excellent post, Sir David of Carter. Problem is though, I got more and more depressed the further I read. (This in no way takes away from your utter frustration yesterday.)

    To all those in any bureaucracy we may wish to tell them that there are some Neville Chamberlain awards that they can pick up in the front of the hall, your dispatcher perhaps near the front of the line

    Why, thank you kindly! And yes, I got more depressed as things progressed as well. I’m learning patience, I suppose. Or at least I ought to be, though I can’t say for certain that the lessons are working. 

    • #15
    • April 23, 2018 at 2:46 pm
    • 2 likes
  16. Member

    Whether it’s a dispatcher dealing with a driver complaining about maintenance, a prime minister or government president dealing with the leader of another nation, a bureaucrat dealing with a torrent of claims, it’s a matter of what the likelihood is that the “worst case scenario” comes about, and how they’re going to explain to management the “worst case scenario” doesn’t happen and everybody’s spent a bunch of time dealing with fear of the “worst case scenario.” 

    We see the case of the truck broken with an overheated engine. How often has dispatch heard complaints from drivers yet the trucks were nonetheless able to complete their rounds? We see the time appeasing a tyrant didn’t work. But, how often has somebody appeased a tyrant and stayed in peace? Today we can tolerate 40 Southwest Airlines flights cancelled because of a desire to inspect aircraft engines. Would we have been willing to tolerate 40 cancellations last Monday, before Flight 1380 suffered a catastrophic engine failure?

    • #16
    • April 23, 2018 at 2:52 pm
    • 3 likes
  17. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Skyler (View Comment):

    CRD (View Comment):

    Dave Carter (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    And it’s a lot easier to blame the dispatcher than it is to accept the blame yourself for continuing to drive a truck with a “substantial” coolant leak. What were you thinking?

    And it’s easier to blame the “others” for a living Constitution than to admit that the voters get what they want in the end.

    That’s a very good point, and one that I’ve thought through before, during and since. I have lost track of the number of battles I’ve fought over maintenance issues, hours of service and more. It’s always a fight, and always extremely stressful. For better or worse, I simply grew tired of fighting. I’ve never seen anyone so dogmatically impervious to reality nor so unconcerned with anything except pushing people and machines past the point of reason and legality. I push back hard on legality and safe conditions (e.g. ice, etc),…but in a very real sense, it’s a daily battle and I’m worn down from fighting him. But you do raise a very good point here.

    I think what I like even better than your posts are your responses to negative comments. Mr. Carter, you’re a gem!

    Not negative. It was conversation. I don’t think Dave is so thin skinned as to have not realized the point I made. I was just pulling it out to make a further point.

    No, not thin skinned at all. In fact, after a quart of Jack Daniels I felt just dandy! We should do this more often! 

    • #17
    • April 23, 2018 at 2:59 pm
    • 6 likes
  18. Member

    @davecarter : I’m delivering resumés and interviewing in other lines of work today, tomorrow, and every spare moment I get. I’ve had about as much fun as I can stand in the current situation.

    Are you no longer with the company that sponsored the “Ride of Pride”?

    • #18
    • April 23, 2018 at 3:09 pm
    • 1 like
  19. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    WillowSpring (View Comment):

    @davecarter : I’m delivering resumés and interviewing in other lines of work today, tomorrow, and every spare moment I get. I’ve had about as much fun as I can stand in the current situation.

    Are you no longer with the company that sponsored the “Ride of Pride”?

    No, I’m afraid I’m not. I came off the cross-country circuit when I met this amazing lady and married her a little over two years ago. I took a local driving job, but I’ll be hanged if it doesn’t wear me out with much longer hours and less pay than the cross country driving ever did. 

    • #19
    • April 23, 2018 at 3:22 pm
    • 2 likes
  20. Thatcher

    Dave, bottom line up front, the truck driving life style is not a healthy one. I’ve got a brother in NW Arkansas who drove trucks for over 30 year. He is 14 months older than me (I’m 63 and he is just about to turn 65) but can no longer take care of himself. To be honest, most of his problems he caused himself. He never planned for retirement, never stopped smoking until he had to. Stayed on the bennies and alcohol too long. In short, never took care of himself. Along the way he destroyed his family and isolated himself. As someone who comes from a hillbilly family that thinks being a truck driver is one step up from being in the military (dealing cards in a casino is the ideal job – that way you can combine it with your talents as a meth user/seller and ne’er-do-well), I highly recommend finding another line of work. I understand the DoD is looking for cruise missile pilots. All you got to do is ride it to the target and jump off before it hits.

    • #20
    • April 23, 2018 at 4:42 pm
    • 5 likes
  21. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Rōnin (View Comment):

    Dave, bottom line up front, the truck driving life style is not a healthy one. I’ve got a brother in NW Arkansas who drove trucks for over 30 year. He is 14 months older than me (I’m 63 and he is just about to turn 65) but can no longer take care of himself. To be honest, most of his problems he caused himself. He never planned for retirement, never stopped smoking until he had to. Stayed on the bennies and alcohol too long. In short, never took care of himself. Along the way he destroyed his family and isolated himself. As someone who comes from a hillbilly family that thinks being a truck driver is one step up from being in the military (dealing cards in a casino is the ideal job – that way you can combine it with your talents as a meth user/seller and ne’er-do-well), I highly recommend finding another line of work. I understand the DoD is looking for cruise missile pilots. All you got to do is ride it to the target and jump off before it hits.

    As long as I have a different dispatcher….

    • #21
    • April 23, 2018 at 7:27 pm
    • 8 likes
  22. Coolidge

    Do you at least get paid for the time you’re stranded on the side of the road?

    • #22
    • April 23, 2018 at 7:43 pm
    • Like
  23. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Do you at least get paid for the time you’re stranded on the side of the road?

    Nope.

    • #23
    • April 24, 2018 at 4:19 am
    • Like
  24. Contributor

    Dave Carter (View Comment):
    I’m delivering resumés and interviewing in other lines of work today, tomorrow, and every spare moment I get. I’ve had about as much fun as I can stand in the current situation. 

    I’m very glad to read this, Dave. Life is too short, and gets even shorter when we’re in terrible situations. If you’re anything like me, you need to be bashed over the head several times before you throw up your hands and say, enough is enough!

    • #24
    • April 24, 2018 at 10:07 am
    • Like
  25. Thatcher

    I just read “the rest of the story” on your website. You will never know what, if anything, was said or done to the inept person you speak of. Management assures you it’s taken care of it, but I’ll guarantee they haven’t said a word. Goes right back to it’s easier for them not to confront the person and just hope it goes away. Been there. Doesn’t set well with me and my manager hears about it all the time. Going part time has been the best thing for both of us. Hope you find something else soon to help your blood pressure. In the meantime, Jack always helps. 

    • #25
    • April 24, 2018 at 1:12 pm
    • Like
  26. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Dave Carter (View Comment):
    I’m delivering resumés and interviewing in other lines of work today, tomorrow, and every spare moment I get. I’ve had about as much fun as I can stand in the current situation.

    I’m very glad to read this, Dave. Life is too short, and gets even shorter when we’re in terrible situations. If you’re anything like me, you need to be bashed over the head several times before you throw up your hands and say, enough is enough!

    Very true. But enough is enough. I’m distributing resumés all over town now. 

    • #26
    • April 24, 2018 at 2:16 pm
    • Like
  27. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Blondie (View Comment):

    I just read “the rest of the story” on your website. You will never know what, if anything, was said or done to the inept person you speak of. Management assures you it’s taken care of it, but I’ll guarantee they haven’t said a word. Goes right back to it’s easier for them not to confront the person and just hope it goes away. Been there. Doesn’t set well with me and my manager hears about it all the time. Going part time has been the best thing for both of us. Hope you find something else soon to help your blood pressure. In the meantime, Jack always helps.

    I put his grandkids through school, ya know. ;) 

    • #27
    • April 24, 2018 at 2:17 pm
    • 4 likes
  28. Coolidge

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    I’m very glad to read this, Dave. Life is too short, and gets even shorter when we’re in terrible situations. If you’re anything like me, you need to be bashed over the head several times before you throw up your hands and say, enough is enough!

    True words. Life is too short to work for a jerk. I hold to that for every employer except when I’m self-employed as I am now.

    • #28
    • April 24, 2018 at 2:41 pm
    • 2 likes
  29. Member

    Skyler (View Comment):
    I hold to that for every employer except when I’m self-employed as I am now.

    Yeah, I have that problem. You get no sympathy complaining about what a jerk the boss is when you’re the jerk, er, boss.

    • #29
    • April 24, 2018 at 4:10 pm
    • 3 likes
  30. Member

    One of the best local management stories I have heard was in a newspaper report on a major snowstorm that hit our county (western New York state, where we regularly receive lots of snow). Of course, that is when lots of furnaces fail.

    The president of one of the local heating contractors was shoveling the snow from around the firm’s trucks. One of the younger repair technicians approached him along the lines of, “I should be shoveling, not you; you’re the president of the company.” To which the president said, “No, at this moment you are revenue, I am overhead. I’m shoveling so you can get out there to repair furnaces and generate revenue.” I’ve often thought of how the president recognized what was most important for his company at that moment, even though it wasn’t the normal allocation of roles and responsibilities.

    • #30
    • April 24, 2018 at 5:45 pm
    • 6 likes
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