Saturday, April 3, 2010

"Toyota hysteria"?

On March 9th, the Los Angeles Times published an OpEd piece that caught my eye. It was called "Toyota hysteria."

It's been almost a month since the article appeared, and some of the hoopla has subsided. Still, I think the article is relevant to life (and the Toyota "problem.")

I own and drive a Toyota. I've owned a Fiat, several Volkwagens (bugs and buses), a Vega, a Ford Aspire, a Jeep, a Chevy Cavalier, and a Honda CRV. I like my Toyota. It's the first new car I've ever owned.

My Corolla is not one of the many that were recalled, but all the news made me a bit worried.

I try not to over-react to things. I can recall my mom saying, "There are two sides to every story." I still try to get both sides before jumping to a conclusion.

As a result, I've learned to look a bit deeper into current affairs before I form an opinion. Knee-jerk reactions are the norm. Sometimes I prefer not being normal.

Some quotes from the Op-Ed piece I especially liked were:

1) "But what I am worried about, with the current avalanche of unintended-acceleration complaints against the company and the congressional hearings, is the hysteria promoted by sensationalist headlines and pompous government officials."

2) "To err is human; to blame errors on external factors is even more so."

3) ""Nobody wants to minimize any deaths Toyota defects may have caused," says Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "But vehicle defects are just a tiny, tiny part of what leads to crashes.""

4) "So why the emphasis on mechanical defects above all else? Evans says it began with Ralph Nader and his 1965 book, "Unsafe at Any Speed." Today it's perpetuated by trial lawyers seeking the deepest pockets and a media that know it's sexier to crusade against corporations than emphasize individual responsibility."

And so we return again to the less sexy problem of individual responsibility. The author acknowledges Toyota's contribution to the current tragedy, but he also puts it into a larger perspective. It's easier to blame others, than to accept personal blame. It's easier to point a finger than to say, "My bad. Please forgive me."

And what are the author's qualifications for speaking to the Toyota hysteria:

1) He was involved in a serious crash in 1992 that ended in an out-of-court settlement with Toyota.

2) His wife, who was seriously injured in that crash, owns and drives a Toyota.

3) The author, Michael Fumento, "is director of the nonprofit Independent Journalism Project, where he specializes in health and safety issues."

The antidote to hysteria just might be good information from a reliable source.

Perhaps "truth" exists in both sides of a story. Hmmm... Something to think about.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mr. Good Enough -- That's me!

I used to be a perfectionist. On a related note, I used to be disillusioned and somewhat depressed. I was idealist. I grew up in the 60's and 70's. But over time, I came to my senses, and I grew up some more.

In various degrees, in various settings, I've learned that "Good enough often is... good enough."

I dated and broke up with some very nice girls. But they weren't "perfect" for me. I'd like to say I wasn't as bad as the characters on Seinfeld, but the end result was the same. I was always finding some reason why they weren't quite "perfect."

Sometimes the girl broke my heart, sometimes, I broke hers. (It was probably more of a bruising than a breaking... it was all "young love." We were learning to love.)

Somewhere along the way, at about 20, I realized that I was looking for too much in a girl. Girls aren't God. They can't be expected to fill the deep emptiness of my soul: that's God's job.

I'm guessing that many women who are looking for Mr. Right suffer from a similar misconception: men aren't the end-all, be-all of existence. That's asking too much. (Not to say some guys aren't doing the same thing.)

I was recently reminded of all this when I came across an interview with the author of a new book called, "Marry Him, the case for settling for Mr. Good-enough." I read the interview, then I read the article in The Atlantic that preceded the book.

At about 20, I changed from looking for Mrs. Perfect, to "I think I need a wife." Within six months of that change of perspective, I'd met the girl. (Actually, I already knew her, I just hadn't recognized her as the one who would willingly commit to walking with me through the journey of life.) We married a year and a half later.

She had been engaged twice before, but had gotten "cold feet." This time, she looked at things differently, and made a commitment summed up in two words: "I do."

Eighteen years and three children later, she passed away after a six year bout with cancer. Did she settle for Mr. Good Enough? Some might say so.

But the night before she died, she said, "I'm so happy." (She also had just told me how much she loved me. We had grown to love each other deeply... over the course of time and life.)

We had "settled" on each other, and it was good.

In work, I was also perfectionist.

My mom used to say, "Good, better, best; never let it rest, until good is better, and better is best."

Then I met Rick Simmons, my computer programming boss. He told me, "Don, not everything needs to be a Cadillac. Sometimes a Chevrolet is good enough." I didn't like it at first, but he was right, and I was liberated: again. Perfection is a cruel task master.

These days, I aim to be "above average" or sometimes just "thoroughly adequate."

Perfection is over-rated and generally unattainable. If you're looking for Perfection, then find God. (That will release the rest of us from an unfair burden.)

A year after being widowed, I met a widow from New York. I was from California. We met via AOL. She was looking for some help in coping with the loss of her husband.

It all started very platonic... but over time... I came to realize that Leslie loved me, and that I loved Leslie. I hadn't even seen her picture yet; hadn't met her face-to-face; hadn't even gone on a date.

We were both in our 40's. We had both enjoyed good marriages. We knew what mattered and what didn't. We both knew Perfection was found in Another (God). We knew that Another could help us find "another," who was "good enough." We settled? (Actually, I proposed marriage, and she accepted!)

In December, Leslie and I will celebrate our 12th anniversary. We're happily married. You might call us, Mr. and Mrs. Good Enough.

* * * * *

My Cousin Buffie wrote us a wedding poem called,

"A Wedding Prayer for Don and Leslie."

As you start your life together
Through the grace of God, a second chance
For the Love and for the Laughter
And for the knowing glance.

May your Love shine bright forever.
Your two souls entwined in dance.
And your happiness be boundless
Through the grace of God, a second chance.

* * * *

I settled on a choice, Leslie. And Leslie settled on a choice, Don.
Mr. and Mrs. Good Enough -- living a life of "good enough" together.
Trying to be "above average" and "thoroughly adequate."
So far, so good -- because often -- Good enough is!