Dr-Fix-It! Notebook Archive:
The Blame Game . . .
The blame game can be caused by something psychologists refer to as 'attribution.'
"Nobody likes to lose," said Dr. John F. Murray, a clinical and sport performance psychologist in Palm Beach, Fla. "If you can find an alternative explanation that doesn't include your team, you're going to use it to protect your self esteem. It makes it easier to say, 'Our team was not bad, We got robbed.' "
"Super Bowl XL: Upon further review, it's time to move on" Seattle Times 2006.02.10
Driving too fast for safety, Gregg piloted his cart through the maintenance yard gates. Holding on to the steering wheel with his right hand and the roll cage with his left, Gregg expressed fear and impending doom in his long frown. Bouncing behind Gregg's cart, the Honda concrete grinder was strapped onto a lowboy flatbed trailer .
John was standing on the front step of the Maintenance Office with his arms crossed.
"What are you doing back here so soon?" He hollered over the cart's engine noise, "You have a full day of leveling sidewalks ahead of you!"
Gregg hit the brakes and simultaneously turned the key off. The cart shuddered to a silent stop. "That piece -of -junk concrete grinder just quit working! I guess I just plum worked it to death!"
John rolled his eyes. "And THIS from a man who gets tired when he eats spaghetti. You won't play cards because you consider it heavy lifting. Your idea of a strenuous workout is tying both of your shoes. The only thing you have EVER overworked is your jaw. YOU overworking a nine horsepower Honda concrete grinder is something I would PAY to see! "
Gregg protested, "Awwww John! How can you say that about me? . . . It's like this, see? We was going to start a on another sidewalk, see? We was all ready to grind them bumps out of that -there sidewalk. But, when I tried to start the engine, the pull-cord wouldn't move a lick! I even tried to move the drive -shaft. It wouldn't move, either. I think the engine is seized. It's not a stuck rewind. The transmission is in neutral. I think the engine is seized."
John closed his eyes and put his hand to his forehead," . . . And did you check the oil?"
Gregg nodded, " Oh yes! The very first thing this morning!"
John did not open his eyes, And . . .did you check the oil in the transmission, too?"
Gregg's eyes darted, "Transmission? Ummm . . . Well, sure! We checked the oil in the transmission for sure. The very first thing this morning! Yes, we did. For sure!"
John opened his eyes and looked sideways at Gregg, "Can you show me the transmission oil dipstick on this concrete grinder?
Gregg slowly walked toward the concrete grinder. He circled the grinder, trying to study it while looking casual. Gregg finally pointed to the transmission oil port. "Here it is. Right here."
John stared at Gregg over the top of his glasses. "And . . . is there any oil in the transmission?"
Gregg held his breath as he removed the dipstick. He quietly sighed when he saw there was oil on the dipstick.
He looked up at John grinned. "See? I TOLD you that there was oil in the transmission! There is oil in the transmission and there's oil in the crank case! Its not my fault this piece of junk just wouldn't run. Maybe I worked it to death after all!"
John stood firm with arms crossed. He spoke quietly through his teeth. "At this juncture, I am not willing to leap to the assumption that you or anyone - especially you - could work a concrete grinder to death. I will point out that, statistically, the majority of equipment failures are due to operator error. Be it cars, boats, airplanes or concrete grinders, the most likely reason for failure is the human element."
"This is the way it was . . ."Gregg looked to the heavens with hands clasped. His face racked in dramatic pain, Gregg voiced the last words of the concrete grinder, "Please, Mr. Gregg! Please don't make me work so hard! It's so hot down here and I'm grinding more concrete than I EVER seen before! I'm working so hard I'm ready to overheat and seize up! Please Mr. Gregg! Please stop working me sooooo hard!"
Gregg looked at John and beamed. "Yes sir! That's the way it happened! I worked that concrete grinder to death. I plum wore it out."
John let his arms drop. He looked down and frowned. "I have to take some of the blame for this. It's my fault. I should have walked you through the proper operation of the concrete grinder before I sent you off to do this job. I assumed it, since you've operated this machine before, that you would be capable of operating in again. It is my fault for assuming. From now on, whenever I turn you loose with any piece of motorized equipment, I will personally walk you through the proper operational procedures. Do I make myself clear?"
Gregg shrugged, "Well, if you want to waste your time, I guess I will have to go along with it. But it sure seems like a waste of time for somebody to show me how to run a piece of equipment that I already know how to run."
"You said you knew how to run this piece of equipment. But, in thirty minutes, you bring it back seized up tighter than a mason jar in Grandma's pantry." John walked over to the concrete grinder and pointed a red warning sign on the handlebars. "Gregg, Did you ever notice this?"
Gregg squinted at the handlebars. "What?"
John put his finger on the warning sign. "Did you ever, in all your vast experience, notice this sign that says (quote) Do not tilt this machine. Engines seizure may result. (unquote). Did you ever notice this little picture of a concrete grinder being tilted with the handlebars on the ground? Do you understand the significance of a red circle with a line through it? What part of 'Do not tilt this machine. Engines seizure may result.' don't you understand?
Gregg and responded indignantly with his hands on his hips. "Well, ain't you supposed to check the grinding heads? If you can't drop the handlebars down to the ground, you can't check the grinding heads. That's the only way to pick the grinding heads up so that you can see if they're in properly and to see if there's anything wrong."
John winced and closed his eyes, "See, if you had read the instructions, you would know how to check the grinding heads without tilting a machine in such a way as to cause engine seizure. But you didn't bother to read the book. You did something that was clearly warned against."
John slammed his fist on the handlebar, "Dammit Gregg! You didn't even HAVE to read this warning! They made it OBVIOUS! Here's a picture with a circle and a the line through it! A warning sign printed in red letters with pictures! How could you have POSSIBLY missed that? It's right here on the handlebars! Right in front of you! How could you miss that?"
Gregg shook his head, "That's nothing but a bunch of hooey. Ain't no way tilting a machine ever made an engine seize up. You can put the handlebars on the ground all day long and you ain't gonna hurt no engine. That concrete grinder is just a piece of junk. That's all."
John didn't move.. He squinted at Gregg, "I got to say this. I'm pretty ticked off at you right now, Gregg. I think you seized the engine. I don't know how - but I think you did. I say: through ignorance or negligence, you caused major damage to a perfectly good $7,000 piece of equipment. . . . This is going to screw up the schedule. Equipment that we need is going to be laid up in the shop because of something YOU did. Right now, I want you to take the grinder down to the motor pool. Leave it there so Shawn take a look at it and give me an estimate. I want an independent opinion of what went wrong before a make any further judgments. I've already jumped to too many conclusions for one day."
Gregg jumped in the cart and turned the key. He shoved the stick into first gear. As he spun the cart around, Gregg pointed an upraised finger at John, "Yah,You're jumping to conclusions, all right! You're saying I broke that piece of junk when I didn't do nothing wrong!"
In less than an hour, Gregg returned. With his head held high and wearing a big grin, Gregg drove triumphantly through the maintenance yard gates. John heard the commotion in the maintenance yard and went out to meet Gregg.
Gregg took a deep breath. "It did like you told me to do, John. I took that concrete grinder down to the motor pool so Shawn could have a look at it. Shawn, he was right there. He said right off the bat that there wasn't nothing wrong with that grinder. He asked me if I'd tilted the grinder and I told him that I needed to check the cutting heads. Shawn, he said that was the problem -right there. He said it's real common on those big Honda four-stroke engines with the gas tank mounted on top of the block. If you tilt one of them engines 'JUST SO' , the carburetor float drops and the gasoline can flow straight down the intake into the engine cylinder.
"It's gotta be 'JUST SO' : The intake valve has to be open. The gas tank stopcock has to be open. And you have to tilt the carburetor just the right way to make the float trip. But, if everything is 'JUST SO' , then the cylinder head fills with gasoline and the engine looks like it seized but it is just full of gas.
"Shawn, he took the spark plug out and pulled the engine over a couple times to blow out the gasoline. Then he put the plug back in and it started on the first pull! It started right up! Shawn told me to be mindful to turn the fuel valve off whenever I stop the engine."
Gregg stopped to catch his breath.
John recapped, " So . . . tilting the engine WILL cause a seizure? "
Gregg slapped his thigh in disgust, "Yes, I guess you could call it a seizure. Sometimes gas will fill up the cylinder. But, it's just a little gas on top of the piston! It doesn't mean the engine is SHOT. It's no big deal! I didn't hurt nothing!"
John pressed on, "So . . . that red warning sign is not a bunch of hooey then? Since you're such an expert on the operation if that machine, I would have assumed you would know all about turning the gasoline on and off. I'll bet, if you look in the HOOEY Section of the operating manual, you could read all about that."
Gregg's face reddened, "How come I come in here and you yell at me for breaking the machine and then when I take it down to Shawn, he tells me that the nothing really happened. It's just gasoline on top of the cylinder. And I bring it back here and tell you that there's nothing wrong . . . That I really didn't hurt the machine. How come you accuse me of being stupid because I didn't read the manual or something? Did YOU know that Honda engines could fill up with gasoline if everything was 'JUST SO' ?"
John shrugged and shook his head., "No, I didn't. It's news to me."
Gregg threw his hands in the air, "Well, there you go! YOU didn't know either!"
John held up his index finger, "I was not operating the equipment, you were. It wasn't necessary for me to know. It was necessary for you to know. I pay you to know how to operate that concrete grinder."
Gregg stretched his hands outward, "Get real, John. Nothing happened! I think you owe me an apology."
John scowled, "An apology? You've managed to avoid work for an hour and a half with your bullshit bravado. You come in here to tell me that you're such a hard worker that you single -handedly burned up a 9 horsepower Honda concrete grinder. But the truth is that you don't know enough about the equipment to tell the difference between a seized engine and a FLOODED engine. You should apologize to me for wasting my morning!
Gregg started to speak but John held up his hand. He continued, " . . . OK . . . You are right. Nothing happened to the concrete grinder. I am relieved this was all just a false alarm. Now, Go get the manual for the concrete grinder. You and I are going to sit here until you understand every word in it. Then, when you know how to operate the concrete grinder, I will need for you to get your butt out there and do some work today."
Gregg mumbled, "Well, I guess I have no choice if you want to waste your time reading to me. But I'm telling you flat out: that grinder is just a piece of junk. If it breaks again, it ain't my fault!