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Your politically correct auto advice columnist

By Staff | Oct 24, 2012

I was recently scolded for a previous column. A nice lady told me I had been extremely one-sided in the column about automotive terminology. I was caught in my usual dumbfounded state, as I tried to remember if there were any sides to the column. I must have taken sides in an argument that had no sides. I don’t remember whether I won or lost. Who could tell? Then she explained it.

I had used three famous examples of poor pronunciation or spelling, by George W. Bush, Sarah Palen and Vice President Dan Quale. They were the first ones I could think of. She was upset because I picked on conservatives. I should have included an equal number of liberals in my examples, she said. Sorry, I said. Now I guess I have to write another column like this using a male reader to show that I’m not biased against the ladies.

Wait. What if she’s Christian? Now I need one with a Jewish slant and one Muslim and one, holy cow, what if all three were left handed. I must be biased against lefties. I can’t fathom how many I have to do to be fair to everyone. I guess I’ll have to quit writing, since I can’t avoid hurting feelings.

Nah. I’m going to write and let the chips fall where they may. Possibly the comments about the column tell more about the reader than about the column. Sort of like the Rorschach Ink Blot Test. Some people may need more hobbies, even nice ladies.

Since we’re in a psychology spin, our subject today is our tendency to try to simplify a complex problem to better understand it, and then expecting the solution to be simple, forgetting that the problem is, in fact, complicated, and the solution may also be equally complicated. Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s move on. Just kidding. For instance, your car won’t start. The other day your neighbor’s identical car wouldn’t start, so you think it must be the same problem. If you go buy a new battery because that’s what your neighbor needed, you are just prolonging the process that might end in your needing a new fuel pump rather than a battery.

You are guilty of oversimplification, which is a very human trait. However, oversimplified logic is sort of like, “You have a tongue, a cow has a tongue, so you are a cow.” We, as humans, don’t like to be inundated with incoming data. That’s why we prefer books to film. We can visualize the scenery in a book to suit us. It’s why we fall for Internet romances. We don’t have to deal with looks, tones of voice, eye contact or odors. We can just read text and imagine the rest. It’s possibly why we even prefer texting to talking, because it’s even less incoming data to interpret. If we prefer film to books, it’s probably because we’re too lazy to read. We want simplicity.

Where this all falls apart is in the repair of machinery, whether it’s cars, airplanes, office machines, home air conditioners or any other machinery. You see, machines don’t care about our phobias. They deal with tons of data, unless they break. They are complex by nature, and repairs can be equally complex. All of the complexities must be dealt with to make a diagnosis. Oversimplifying only slows down the diagnosis process. In fact there are hundreds of reasons a car might not start, whether we like complications or not. It’s best to leave technology to those who like it, and the rest of us can stick with human relationships. Wait. That’s a complicated oversimplification. I need a hobby.