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Conclusion jumping

April 9, 2014
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Let's talk about bad food, bad gas, pumping either, and jumping to conclusions.

We know that bad food can cause bad gas, and stomach pumps may be required, and bad gas can be pumped into your car, (using different pumps) giving results that are hard to stomach. Don't jump to conclusions about these subjects. They do have something in common.

When most people start feeling nauseous, their first reaction often is to blame it on "something I ate. I must have food poisoning from that meal I had at that restaurant last night." Calmer (less sick) observers might mention that they, and others also ate the same food at the same time and were feeling OK, only to be ignored by the sufferer. "I'm sick, and I wasn't sick before I ate at that restaurant, so it had to be their food, and I'm never going to eat there again. I may sue them. I'll own that place."

Human nature seems to latch on to the quickest possible cause of a problem and only look for a more accurate one if the first one can be proven wrong. That's "guilty until proven innocent," which is surely un-American, or at least un-fair, but very common nonetheless. We even do it with our car problems.

If our car suddenly gets a case of the hiccups or coughs, we often say, "I must have got some bad gas. It ran fine until I got that gas. I'm going to sue the socks off of that station." Here's the thing. Actual cases of food poisoning or of bad gasoline being pumped are extremely rare. Much rarer than the number of upset stomachs and engine misfires that are experienced. They're just the easiest to blame without investigating further. Let's look at what happens in an actual bad gas scenario.

Many years ago, a small station on San Carlos Island had some water intrusion into their underground tanks during a tremendous rain storm. The next day they began pumping that water up with their gas into their customers' cars. A Volkswagen Beetle made it all the way (about one mile) to our shop before it quit running. After diagnosing it as water in the gas, I began driving toward the station in question, and guess what I found. Cars, dead along the road. The closer I got to the station, the bigger were the cars that were stranded. Cadillacs and Lincolns only made it a few hundred yards, while mid-sized cars made it further. The Beetle made it the farthest. There was no doubt about the cause. The station carried insurance, so everybody was de-watered and sent on their way with their bill paid by the station. The point is, if there is no pandemic of hiccupping cars, there is no bad gas causing it. Actually, this was 35 years ago, and I have not seen it happen anywhere around here since then.

There are hundreds of reasons an engine might run poorly and hundreds of causes of nausea. We'd all like to think it's simpler than that, but it isn't. Jumping to easy, quick conclusions simply slows down the correct cure of the problem. An open mind and an investigation are more productive.

Conclusion jumping even extends to "guilt by association." Some people return after a repair job with a statement like, "It didn't have this problem before you worked on it." Sometimes they are correct. Most of the time however, their new problem is completely separate from the first one. But, since it was recently worked on, they assume the mechanic must have caused the new problem and that's all there is to it. Naturally, mechanics resent this attitude, and one has to wonder how these people expect to get quality free work out of someone they just insulted.

Sometimes I think they're just trying to get something for nothing, but I may be jumping to that conclusion. I'll try to keep an open mind.



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