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Not seeing the forest for the trees

November 14, 2012
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

There is a concept called, "Not seeing the forest for the trees." It means to concentrate so totally on a task that you forget why you are doing it. You get embroiled in the details and miss the big picture. For example, Florida legislators pulled two agreements out of their constant arguing, one to require seat belts in cars and one to not require motorcycle helmets. Did someone lose track of the original intent? Apparently so, but we dare not bring it to their attention or they might mandate helmets in cars and seat belts on Harleys.

It's like an inventor who makes a remarkably life-like robot with nimble fingers and hands, and he programs it to take the laundry down to the river and beat it on the rocks. Great robot; lousy washing machine. I knew a guy in the Navy who was a talented mathematician with tremendous powers of concentration. The Navy sent him to officer's school and then pilot training at Pensacola. While making a strafing run on a floating target in the Gulf of Mexico, our boy concentrated so hard that he flew his jet right through the target and had to eject. The Navy also ejected him from flight school and sent him into the fleet as a computer tech. Great guy, but where the rest of us had pin-up girls posted, he had schematics. We had shorter attention spans. How does this apply to cars? Let me refocus.

Suppose you're a soccer, hockey or karate mom, complete with lipstick -which Sarah Palen says makes you as tough as a pit bull but much prettier- and you need a new car. You need to carry multiple sets of kids and equipment to multiple places at multiple times, and have to do it yourself because you can't afford, or don't trust, public transportation. So you need room, ease of loading people and equipment and economic operation. You go to the dealership and begin the barrage from the salesman. After dizzying discourses, mind-numbing number crunching, and testy test drives you leave with a 10-foot-tall gas guzzling four-wheel drive leviathan that has the horsepower to pull a freight train through the swamp. Your kids can't get in without a ladder. Did you lose focus? It happens a lot, in or out of the car world.

How about this year's Fort Myers Beach Christmas Boat Parade, scheduled for Dec. 1. Apparently the Christmas schedule got so complicated this year that they had to compete with Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade to find room for it. Did we lose focus? Merry Thanksgiving.

Back to the car world, how complicated would you think a headlight was? They were once pretty simple. On some Acura models, the special bulbs and special power packs used to power them can cost over $600 to replace. For a headlight. The light may be focused, the designers, not so much.

We tell our kids they need an education to succeed in life. Then we can't make the PTA meetings, but we can spend enough time and money on sports to pay ballplayers multi-millions, while teachers make a pittance. Sorry about the non-car subjects. I lost focus.



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