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A Grin at the End: ‘Our next guest’ – A fun idea to find out hidden reasons for annoyances

I have an idea for a TV show. 

It would be called Who Thought That Was a Good Idea? 

In it, I would sit at a kitchen table with a pot of coffee and two cups. Also sitting at the table would be my guest – an engineer, architect or other person who designs some of the crazy stuff we all encounter. I would pour my guest a cup of coffee, and we would talk.

My first guest would be an automotive engineer – specifically, the person who designs headlights on cars. Those guys must be nuts! I have on numerous occasions changed the headlight bulbs on a variety of cars. In some cars, it takes a couple of minutes.

In others, it can take up to two hours. Changing a headlight bulb can involve removing a front fender or bumper, jacking up the car to access a screw behind the bumper, or being double-jointed. When my kids were little they always expanded their vocabulary when they watched me work on a car – if you know what I mean.

My first question for the engineer would be: Who thought hiding headlights behind and under fenders and bumpers was a good idea?

Engineer: Well, I can tell you that the headlight we designed was easily accessible, but after the bean counters got a ahold of it, the design was turned into the Rube Goldberg nightmare you saw. They said the original design was too expensive and the company could save three cents by using the new design.

Me: So you’re saying someone with a business degree redesigned your $40,000 car to save a few pennies?

Engineer: Yes. It happens all the time in almost every company.

Me: That’s why you have to have three hands and eight-inch-long fingers to fix a car?

Engineer: Yep. That’s also why you need to take a car to a mechanic to do almost anything. Time was, almost anyone could do routine maintenance, including changing the oil and transmission fluid, adjusting the timing, swapping out spark plugs or anything short of major surgery…

Me: …And now it takes a Ph.D. to figure it out. I recently had to have something replaced on a car that I didn’t even know existed. And it took a mechanic two tries to fix it.

Engineer: Well, a lot of it has to do with things government requires on cars, like evaporative canisters to keep the emissions down.

Me: Oh, I thought the canister was designed to keep the balance in my checking account down.

Engineer: That, too. But it’s a government thing. We just do what we’re told in that department.

Me: Great. Not only are MBAs redesigning cars, so are politicians.

Engineer: Pretty much.

Me: Well, I guess that settles that. We need fewer bean counters and politicians and more engineers. For my next episode of Who Thought That Was a Good Idea? we will talk with the architect who designs public restrooms in sports arenas so they have all of the comfort and style of cattle barns.

Engineer: Ha! I can’t wait for that one. Public restrooms are the architectural equivalent of Edsels!

Carl Sampson is a freelance writer and editor. He lives in Stayton.

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