Quondam Dreams

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Short-term Planning vs. Longer-term Planning: An Illustration, With Cars

This afternoon, I was on my way out of a parking lot down the street from my current day job when a guy driving in the other direction stopped his car, honked and motioned for me to roll down my window. So I did, quite logically concluding that if the guy wanted to speak with me badly enough to stop the flow of cars in and out of that particular area of the lot, it must be awfully important.

"Hi, ma'am." ("Ma'am"? I'm never sure how to take that. I mean, it's a tiny bit better than "Miss," but in a situation like this, I think a polite "Excuse me" is the way to go.) "I'm very sorry to bother you, but I do body work..."

"I've got it covered," I said as soon as I could, and drove off.

"I'll give you a good price!" he called after me, barely audible over the din of car horns.

Let's review this, shall we? Here is an example of short-term planning:

"That woman needs some body work done on her car. I do body work on cars. I will stop and offer my services."

Here is an example of longer-term planning:

"That woman needs some body work done on her car. I do body work on cars. I would like to stop and offer my services. However, if I do stop, then I will block off the flow of cars in and out of this corner of the lot. If our conversation takes longer than about five seconds, the car behind me will probably cause my car to require more body work than the car at which I am looking. In fact, judging from the horns, the drivers of those cars have grown impatient with the one-second pause I have made to consider this matter. Therefore, I will refrain from stopping and offering my services."

Now, class: Does the fact that the man escaped with his car intact mean that the first scenario was the best one? Would pausing to weigh the options have been a waste of time?

Me, I would have gone with the second thought process. Judging from a series of recent interactions with various men, I can only conclude that the presence of a Y chromosome predisposes men to go with the first.

What is it with the auto body business in Pasadena, anyway? Is it all guys who work alone and only drum up business in the city's parking lots? I seem to get pitches like that about once a week. That's never happened to me in any other city.

(For the record: Yes, my car could use some body work. It needs some buffing and touch-up paint, and there's one metal thing that should probably be straightened out. I haven't had the space to do it myself, but I can't justify paying someone else ten times as much as it would cost me to make a bunch of non-essential cosmetic fixes -- not when I'm still out the money it cost to replace my front brake pads and rotor a mere eight months after they'd been put in. But that's a story for another post.)

In my next life, I'm living in a metropolitan region with decent public transportation options.


  • That happened to me in Vegas. My car broke down and this guy stopped. First he asked me about doing body work. I said no, I had other problems. He said he'd help and started taking parts out of my car. He went on and on about it would cost me thousands to go to a shop but he could do it for a couple of hundred.

    Turned out to actually be a scam. He was just working out of his house. He introduced me to his wife and kids. He took away a bunch of parts and said he'd get back to me. Every time he called, the price went up another $100-200. He said I could go into any casino (and offered to drive) and pull out the maximum from my credit cards. If I went to a couple of casinos, I'd soon have a few thousand and he could set me up.

    A friend finally helped me out by hooking me up with a repair shop owner who banked with him. He did a complete overhaul of my radiator for $600. The scammer got almost $500 out of me.

    So that was the weekend in Vegas I lost $1000 without ever stepping into a casino.

    By Blogger dubiousbiologist, at March 17, 2006 at 11:52 AM  

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