NOTE: As I’m preparing a new laptop and culling files from the old one, I came across this little story, allegory, I wrote circa 2004. It related to a screenwriting site I used to frequent.
by Kevin L. Kitchens
Bob, a car aficionado sat at home one day when a friend of his called.
“I just designed a new car, man. I’d really like to know what you think. Can you come over and take it out for a spin and give me your honest opinion?”
“Sure,” said Bob.
He arrived at his friend’s house to find a sleek sports car. Not the best, mind you. But it was still pretty nice to look at. Bob climbed behind the wheel.
“Be honest, dude!”
Bob drove away.
From the very beginning, Bob could tell there were problems with the car. First the alignment was way off, as the car veered too much to the left. He tried the headlights. Nothing. As he approached a traffic light, a waypoint on his journey, the brakes failed. He barely came to a stop with the park brake.
Bob turned the car around and returned to his friend.
“So what did you think, man? Pretty fast, eh?”
“Sorry friend,” said Bob, “this car has some nice things going for it, but there is too much wrong with it foundationally. There was no need to finish the entire drive to know that, right now, it’s a bad car. I’d love to drive it again when you get the problems fixed.”
“The brakes to begin with. The headlights. The alignment.”
“You’re nitpicking. Other people have driven the car and think it’s a beauty. They took full drives and didn’t complain about those things. In fact, some of them liked the struggle against the wheel, the adventure of the brakes, and the darkness of the headlights. I kind of agree with them. It’s a sports car, man!”
“Sorry, but I cannot let their opinion change mine. You asked me to be honest.”
The friend growled, “Yeah, but you should have taken the full drive. You can’t just diss my car after driving it part of the way.”
“Sure I can. And a safety inspector would do the same thing.”
“You’re not a safety inspector!” screamed the friend.
“Look, no need to get upset. You asked for my opinion and I gave it to you. If you want to listen to the others, then fine.”
“I’d trust your opinion more if you’d taken a full drive.”
“But that wasn’t necessary. The problems were evident early enough.”
“You were just too lazy to take the full drive,” the friend foamed.
Bob shook his head, not believing what was being said.
“No wait. You were jealous. You were upset that I had a better car than you. So all you could do was put it down. Hope it made you feel better.”
“I hope your denial makes you feel better,” said Bob. “I did my best and gave you an honest assessment of the car as it stands now. Like I said, it shows promise and if you get the core problems fixed I’d love to take it on another ride.”
“Fat chance. And I’m going to tell every designer I know not to let you drive their cars either!”
Bob shook his head again and walked away.
Bob’s friend couldn’t get to all the other designers. Several of them called Bob and had them try out their cars. Most of them, he was able to take out for a full drive. Some of those he sang the praises of while for others he helped the designers see where the problems were. Normally, they were most grateful, even if they didn’t agree with the assessment.
Other cars, like his friend’s, were still faulty from the start. Those that had foundational problems he returned without completing the drive. He offered his assessment based on the current state of the car. Again, most of the time, the designers accepted the input with gratitude, regardless of whether they agreed with it.
Finally, there were a few new designers who called him over to test drive their “cars”. Bob went, but found they had actually built variations of bicycles, skateboards, even a motorboat. When Bob explained that these were not actually cars, many of them became quite irate.
“They are transportation and that is the important thing! Not how it all looks. Or how it functions. You’re too caught up with silly rules about what a car is! Transportation is King! Not the rules. If I want to call this a car, then it’s a car!”
Other designers rushed over to console the rookies.
“People like Bob are mean,” they soothed.
“How dare he try to pigeonhole your car into his narrow view of what a car is?”
Saddened, Bob walked away. He had his own cars to design. Ones that actually were cars. And not washing machines.