While driving through the country one day, my car began to run roughly — which made me nervous because I was far from home and far from any service stations. It gradually became worse. When my engine finally died, I was able to pull off to the side of the road somewhat. Unfortunately, I was not able to get fully off of the road and I was worried that in addition to breaking down, I was now also in danger of being hit by another car.

Now what do I do? I was now stranded in a strange far away place and in danger of being struck by another vehicle. I needed to accomplish two things:

Goal 1 – I needed someone to help me push my car off of the road completely so that I wouldn’t get hit.

Goal 2 – I needed a mechanic to assess and to fix my car.

As it happened, I would not have to wait long. The first car that approached pulled up behind me. The driver must have realized that I was broken down and stopped to help.

“Good afternoon! I’m a car expert, what seems to be the problem?”

“My car just died,” I replied, encouraged that I was immediately setting off towards my Goals #1 and #2.

“Let’s see… Ah, you have an Acme Theta. These are much better than the Apex Omegas. Did you know that the center of gravity is much lower on these? They started doing that on the 2002 models, ever since Bart Duffey took over the design department,” reported the expert.

“So do you think that you could help me find out what is wrong?” I asked optimistically.

“It’s the power steering bearing flange. They had a lot of problems with those. They should have never started making them out of polymer,” he explained.

“Hmm, my steering was okay but the engine started running rough and…”

“Listen, I know a lot about these cars — I go to all of the car websites. I could probably rebuild a bearing flange if I wanted to, but I don’t have the tools for that yet,” he replied.

Just then, another car pulled up.

“Howdy, I’m a mechanic… hey, is that an Acme Theta? No wonder, they are always breaking down. Too bad you don’t have an Apex Omega. Everybody knows that they are better cars,” said the newly arrived helper.

Now experts number one and two became engaged in a heated debate about which car was better. One was touting customer satisfaction polls that he had read about somewhere. The other was bringing up safety factors that he knew all about from seeing something on a news report. They both seemed to have lots of impressive facts and footnotes about all things car-related but it was just raw information, none of it of any use to my situation. It was all facts and arguments that were about some other problem.

Around the time that I realized that these two experts were not going to help me with either Goal #1 or Goal #2, let alone even assess my problem, they both ran out of time and said that they had to both get to work at their respective jobs in the sales profession. They did promise to meet up with each other again so that they could settle their argument once and for all and prove to me how good or how bad my car model was.

 “I’m sure that someone will be along that can help though,” one of them offered.

I thanked them for their help — or rather their time — and watched them leave.

Just then, another car pulled up. This car had two people in it who said that they knew nothing about the mechanics of cars but thought that they could help somehow. I figured now was a good time to at least work on Goal #2 — that is maybe I could get my car off the road so that I wouldn’t get hit.

“You shouldn’t even be here anyway. How could someone drive so far from home in a car that they knew could break down at any time”, the driver said, “plus, people around these parts don’t take too kindly to out-of-towner’s nosin’ their way around out here.”

The other then chimed in, “Soo, an Acme Theta. These things are real gas guzzlers that really pollute. You must be one of those rich elitists who don’t care about the environment. You big-business loving cronies of the oil companies are all the same. You deserve to get hit by a car, it would send a strong message to…”

“Look,” I interrupted, “I really just need someone who can help me #1-get my car off the road and #2- fix it.”

By now, a crowd was starting to form around my car. Nothing attracts a crowd better than a crowd. As people passed by, they all decided to stop and offer their opinions and their facts. One asked for a show of hands of how many thought I should just abandon my car and get a bicycle instead – “they are good exercise.”

One said that cars are always breaking down and that I should just give up. Another suggested that it was really kind of my fault for not taking better care of my car. One, a sign painter, offered to paint up a sign for me — at a discount — to put up behind my car so that no one would hit it. Still another thought that a special committee should be formed to study the problem and the local politician even promised to push for legislation that would demand a full investigation. A lawyer offered to sue someone with no cost to me unless he wins. One woman told me that my car “didn’t even really break down.”

What was interesting to me was that everybody had an opinion about my problem, but nobody even really knew what my problem was. Never mind helping to solve it. No one even looked at my car or helped me push it off the road. In addition, as intense and passionate as everyone was at the scene, I knew that by tomorrow, everyone will have likely forgotten about me, my car, my problem, whatever it may have been.

There was no shortage of opinions, facts or positions though. It was much easier for the people to argue about things that they knew about–or thought that they knew about–than to study the actual problem and how to solve it. All of their effort was spent on things that were only vaguely related to the core issue at hand.

The final outcome — My car was eventually towed to a service station. It was quite an expensive repair, but I analyzed that although a high price was paid, it was worth it to me to get my car back on the road. Others may disagree with my decision to spend so much on my car, but if they disagree with me, let’s keep the discussion on-topic. We may ultimately disagree, but at least we focused on the problem and not on some ancillary point.