MAX Update No. 61: Judgment Day…Bad Judgment Day

Reader Contribution by Staff
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Okay, I’ve licked my wounds long enough. This is the last I’ll say about this incident, though I’ll apologize in advance: The next few MAX Updates may be more about getting MAX back to normal than about making MAX even better.

The good news is, the only damage to MAX is body damage. The nose section just needs a bit of patching on its sore sports. The doors are okay, the right one just got pushed forward a tad and needs some hinge repair. The pontoons and trunk section are just flat pieces of sheet metal curved around the sides and stern of the car; I can replace them in an afternoon. The rear fenders are…I think it will be quickest to start over on them. I’m glad they were there to provide a “crumple zone”, but, well, they crumpled. I’m not complaining — better to have fenders crumpled than me crumpled, that’s for sure — and fiberglass parts do a great job of absorbing energy when they crumple.

If you look back at MAX’s profile photo in MAX Update No. 58, you’ll note that the rear fenders look much like large eggs. This may have been an omen. Anyway, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put my fenders together again, so I guess I’ll make new ones — which would be a piece of cake if I’d made molds off the old ones before I headed for Pennsylvania … but I didn’t. It was the first item on my Things To Do list for when I got back, though, and now it sits atop my Things I Should Have Done list.

It has been a full month since my last MAX Update, but fortunately, John Rockhold (whose job description includes editing the Green Transportation section on the MEN website) has picked up the slack, with an update of his own, and couple of videos starring Yours Truly. The latest video is titled Why MAX Didn’t Make the 2010 MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR and one thing it shows is how unnecessary that accident was (documented in MAX Update No.60: An Unplanned Body Modification), and how many opportunities I had to avoid it.

By the way, if you’re curious about the exact circumstances that caused me to lose control of the car, I have the answer now.

This photo was taken 10 minutes after the accident; you can see my skid marks in the lower left. The photo in MAX Update No. 60 was taken an hour and a half later, when the tow truck guys brought me back to the scene of the crime. A week later, examining the full resolution version of the above photo, I said to myself, “Well I’ll be dipped, sure enough, that tire had been going flat all along.” My reasoning is, if the tire was about half flat right after the mishap (as the photo close-up indicates) and didn’t go all the way flat for another hour and a half, it must have been pretty close to half flat when I was still driving.

Gosh, you’d think a superior driver such as myself would notice he had a tire problem before the mountain raised up and smote him. I didn’t, because I was suffering from gettheritis.

Getthereitis (pronounced get-there-EYE-tis) is a common malady in aviation. Untreated, it can be fatal. It’s what happens when pilots are convinced that they really have to be somewhere, and their conviction trumps their judgment. It is most often weather related; a pilot looks up at the approaching storm, and if I (as a fellow pilot) told him I was thinking about flying anyway, he’d look at me and say, “You’d have to be a total idiot to take off in this soup,” and he’d be right. Unfortunately there’s nobody there but him, so he says to himself, “My little girl is getting married today, I’ve got to be there, This weather might be a bit much for a lesser pilot but I can handle it.” And maybe he handles it, and everyone lives happily ever after, or maybe he doesn’t, and the wedding is no fun for anybody.

But the truth is, he didn’t really have to be there. It would have made for an amusing family story, told and retold over many a Thanksgiving turkey, with the daughter saying, “Remember when Uncle Larry had to give me away because Dad was snowed in in Albuquerque, and when Dad finally showed up at the reception, Aunt Agnes didn’t believe him until he took her out and showed her the New Mexico license plates on the taxi?” and the dad saying, “Oh yeah, I remember. That taxi ride cost me twelve hundred bucks,” and everybody laughing for the twentieth time.

And watching that video of my talk at the MEN Fair, I saw that the truth for me was, getting lost in the forest was all the reason I needed not to bring MAX to the fair. I didn’t have enough time after that for a safe drive from Oregon to Pennsylvania, nobody wanted me to kill myself trying, and if I’d said, “…so after the deputy winched me out of the woods, I drove MAX home, slept for fourteen hours, and hopped the next airliner to Pittsburgh,” no one would have booed or yelled “Quitter!” at me. It wouldn’t have made the slightest difference, except I would have spent this last month doing mileage tests instead of spending next month doing repairs.

There’s an old saying in aviation: a superior pilot demonstrates his superior judgment to avoid demonstrating his superior skill. I’m sure that saying could be adapted for automotive use.