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Left Coast / Right Coast: Things that simply don’t make sense

We live in very complex times. What I mean is that sometimes things get so complex as to defy logic. For example, did you ever consider traffic lights? There you are driving along at a moderate speed. Then as you approach a traffic light a couple of things come to mind.
Mike Gold living the dream in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Scott Brown.

By Mike Gold, A retired entrepreneur living the dream in the Pacific Northwest.

We live in very complex times. What I mean is that sometimes things get so complex as to defy logic.

For example, did you ever consider traffic lights? There you are driving along at a moderate speed. Then as you approach a traffic light a couple of things come to mind.

First, there is Mike Gold’s “law of red lights.” It simply states that if you look at the light – assuming it is green, it is almost 100% guaranteed that the light will change to red just as you approach it.

Next, who decided that a red light means stop and a green one means go? To me it is absolutely arbitrary which color means what.

Suppose the driver is red/green color blind? How does that driver decide whether to stop or go?

This reminds me of an old true story. 

One of the Andretti brothers, a well-known race car driver was in a car driven by actor and fellow race car driver Paul Newman through a small town in the south.

As they approached a red light, Andretti told Newman, “Go ahead, drive through it.”

So Newman drove through it without stopping.

At the next red light, again Andretti said, “Go ahead, drive through it.”

Again, Newman did as he was told.

They then came to a green light. Here Andretti said, “You better stop and look both ways before driving through this intersection.”

Newman asked, “Why this one?”

Andretti answered, “I think my brother is in town.”

(An aside – when autos were first starting to be used in large numbers, there were regulations in many cities that required a car driver to have a “flag man” walk in front of the car – so as not to scare the horses.)

Some expressions make me (and perhaps others) wonder why they are used. 

Such as: “Needless to say.” If it is not necessary to say it, then why say it?

How about: “I could care less.” In fact, it actually means the opposite of what you think it means. The expression should actually be: “I couldn’t care less.”

Another one: “Can I ask you a dumb question?” This one requires no comment from me.

Pointing to your wrist when you ask for the time is a pointless question. (I know where my watch is, don’t you?)

What does it add to the conversation by pointing to where your watch should be? Instead of pointing to your wrist, why not point to your big left toe? That makes as much sense as pointing at your wrist.

This reminds me of an old “routine” by David Brenner - a noted, but now deceased comedian.

On the New York Subway, people will routinely leave their already read newspaper on an empty subway seat. And it is not uncommon for someone to board the train and sit down on the paper.

So the story goes, Brenner gets on the subway, and sits on a newspaper that was left behind. Another passenger gets on, sees Brenner sitting on the paper and asks, “Excuse me, are you done reading that?”

Brenner gets up, turns the paper upside down, sits back down and says, “No. I’m not done.”

“You’re a stupid idiot.” Isn’t this a redundant expression? Do you really need to be insulted twice in one phrase? Are there idiots who are not stupid? (If I think carefully, I may have met a few in my career.)

“It is the same difference.” Really? How could two different things be the same?

Business ideas aren't always logical either. 

Suppose you wanted to compete with Coca Cola with a new soft drink. Most people would come up with a product that tastes better than Coke, and comes in a large bottle at a much lower price than Coke.

Instead of this, one company decided to make a drink that tasted horrible, came in a tiny can, and cost much more than Coke. Sounds like a “loser” from the start. In fact, the product was Red Bull. See, that is called “thinking out of the box.”

I can well imagine the first “marketing meeting” at this new company. No doubt, the person making the presentation was laughed out of the room. I guess his “box” was different than everyone else’s "box."

Here's another example.

In the mid 50’s Ford Motor Company decided (based upon market research that Ford executives did not actually read) that the market needed a new highly designed high-end car. That car was the Edsel. It was a colossal flop. Ford took what would be a $2 billion (today) bath on the car. Some car critics said it looked like “an Oldsmobile sucking on a lemon.

In fact, if a mistake of this magnitude was made in industry today, the entire team who worked on it would be fired. Not so at Ford, where nepotism reigned supreme.

Henry Ford was not about to fire his son Edsel. A perfect example of The Peter principal, where someone is guaranteed to rise to their level of incompetence.

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