Good Ol’ Doc ABC

Gary Lester

“Doc ABC saved my life!”

“Doc ABC is a quack, he almost killed me.”

“I’ve been dealing with DEF Auto Dealer for decades, they’re the best.”

“Those bums at DEF Auto sold me a lemon and wouldn’t do anything to fix it.”

“We had the best meal at GHI Cafe.”

“We both got deathly ill after we ate at GHI Cafe.”

There’s this thing called “cognitive dissonance.” To get a sense of what dissonance is, next time you’re near a piano hit two adjoining keys at once. Just point your finger at the space between the keys and poke so they both make a sound at the same time. It won’t be pretty. That’s dissonance. So, “cognitive” dissonance refers to thought or ideas that clash in the mind the way the piano notes clash in the ear. That’s what you’d likely get from listening to the conversations above.

Who’s right in those conversations? Is Doc ABC a bum or a medical genius? Should you buy a car from DEF Auto? Do you dare dine at GHI Cafe? It’s tempting to say one person must be right and one must be wrong. But in reality, both can be right, can’t they?

It comes down to personal experience. I doubt there’s a doctor out there who hasn’t made a mistake, a car dealer who hasn’t sold a lemon, or a restaurant that hasn’t upset someone’s tummy. Even if that’s happened just once, if you happen to be talking to the victim, you could be turned off to a decent or even excellent person or organization.

This goes for all kinds of services. I’ve worked with several people who reject ideas because: “I know a guy who had a bad experience with that….” Add to that the “joy of victimhood” mentality and you can get some pretty distorted impressions of things. Some people just love to share, magnify, and embellish, and take advantage of someone else when they have a negative experience.

If you are going to deal with a person or organization how can you be sure you’ll have a good experience? You can’t be 100% sure. You might be one of many people the doctor, dealer, or diner disappointed or harmed. But also, even if the person or organization you’re dealing with has a perfect reputation, you could be the FIRST person with a negative experience! “I don’t understand what happened, everyone said they were great!!!”

People who think life should be simple and perfect are being unrealistic. And I’m not sure anyone can live a totally risk-free life. But I’m pretty sure others aren’t out to get me. So, when things don’t go as planned, I take a deep breath and let out an: “Oh well….”

After decades of observing people’s behavior (and trying to figure out my own) I’ve decided that there will be some problematic issues. I don’t know what they will be, specifically, I just know there will be issues that impinge on that “perfect world”.

I’ve heard: “Expect the best, but plan for the worst.” I don’t like that. It seems to pigeon-hole things into extremes of good and bad. Most days, weeks, years, lifetimes, or even hours are likely to have both kinds of things happening. The trick is to focus on what goes well; the times the doctor catches and fixes your medical issues, the car dealer who catches and fixes your car issues, and that joint that makes the super soup. Focus, re-focus, and re-re-focus on the positive things. If you do that, and there’s a glitch, the sheer volume of the good feelings and experiences far outweigh the bad.

I’m writing this as I sit in my favorite car dealership. Last time I visited, they let me know I was about due for a brake job, so I’m getting that done. It’s almost lunchtime so on the way home, I think I’ll stop for a bowl of that great soup. I visit my doctor every six months. I’m halfway through that timespan and adjustments to my “lifestyle” that he suggested are having a positive impact. Even with the occasional negative experience, general philosophy of “so far, so good” makes things seem pretty darned good to me.

Gary Lester is a lifetime area resident, a former photographer for the Times Observer, former market manager for WhirleyDrinkworks, retired Executive Director of Family Services of Warren County, and current Director of Leadership Warren County. He is a life-long student and commentator on human behavior.