Tuesday, August 28, 2012

take the credit, elude the blame

Today, my mind has donned its mental combat gear, marshaling facts and arguments that I hope will straighten out a problem with local businesses whose errors directly affect my body. I am not looking for someone to blame -- the realm most businesses specialize in avoiding: I am looking for someone willing to take responsibility -- a realm all businesses may promise but few, when the specifics do not benefit them, are willing to exercise. Same for business, same for individuals ... gimme the credit and watch me evade the blame.

It all reminds me of a time, a lot of years ago, when my wife and I realized we needed a bigger car. Riding around in a VW beetle is not a pastime for people with growing families. So we went to a large car dealership, found a second-hand Toyota that seemed to fill the bill, and took it for a test drive. The salesman was all to happy to see our interest and spoke highly of the car's good qualities. During the test drive, my wife and I agreed that it seemed to be a car that represented the best compromise we could make between our needs and our pocketbook. So we put down a $50 deposit and said that, assuming the car passed our mechanic's inspection, we would buy the car for $10,000. The car did not pass our mechanic's inspection:

"It has a cracked block," he told us laconically.

A cracked block is equivalent to a junk car, good for parts and not much more.

The dealership was not in the least chagrined. In fact, rather than acknowledge their oversight and apologize, they proved reluctant to return our $50 deposit. They had put the car up for sale as if it were worth the price and ... well, I was not a happy camper. No one was to blame, to hear the dealership tell it. They were not responsible. No harm, no foul... except that they were willing to bamboozle the customer and still try to maintain the cloak of an honest broker. Let's just chalk it up to "caveat emptor" and forget about it.

Today, no one, to the best of my knowledge, is trying to sell me a car with a cracked block. But I am gearing up for similar excuses and a similar unwillingness to shoulder the responsibility. As I say, I am not interested in blame ... I am interested in who might take the responsibility.

Like many aging people, I take medications to keep this body in some kind of balance. It's a pain in the ass, but it goes with the territory. One of the beckoning blessings of death is that you will no longer have to take any more goddamned pills. Anyway....

The other day, I called the pharmacy to get a prescription refilled. It was a prescription I had taken for at least the last two years if not longer. Two tablets a day. But when I tried to refill the prescription via an automated phone system, a disembodied mechanical voice told me that it was too early to renew the prescription based on prescription information. I looked at the bottle which said to take one tablet a day. Hunh??!! Either I had been taking extra for a number of years -- something I can hardly imagine doing since I dislike taking pills in the first place -- or there had been a snafu somewhere. I needed the pills now because I had run out and I could feel my body exercising the negative effects of NOT taking them. I wracked my brain for explanations and came down to the conclusion that, when typing, "1" is right next to "2" and someone had somehow mistyped. This was the second time in two weeks that the pharmacy had made a similar error. In my confusion over the matter, I called the prescribing doctor's office yesterday and asked if they could help. The young woman hired to field incoming calls and shield those who might take responsible action said she would put it through as "urgent." I called back once to make sure someone was doing something. Another young woman hired to field calls and shield those who might take responsible action said she would resubmit my concerns ... once again as "urgent." As day turned into night, there was no indication that anyone had done anything.

So this morning, I am waiting for the pharmacy to open so that I can put my concerns directly in the ear of someone who might take responsible action. I am not optimistic, but I will try in 30 minutes to get a ball that had been rolling for years rolling anew. In the meantime, I feel that I have bought the car with the cracked block and of course no one is to blame ... and no one is responsible. Heh-heh-heh ... let's let bygones be bygones ... it's all in the past ... people make mistakes, right?

This line of thinking is rampant in business, but is less readily acknowledged personally. The longing to think well of this body and mind overrides the recognition that a life of excuses is not much of a life.

In Buddhism, there is an encouragement: Make a mistake, correct it -- this is practice. Not all mistakes can be corrected, but that's no reason to dismiss or duck the effort. There is no virtue in it, but there is a great usefulness.


  1. what is responsibility in personal life, Adam?

  2. And how is that different to an ordinary life? e.g. Are you saying that the ordinary way is not "I did it"?


  3. I did it, but I have an excuse that excuses me.

    I did it and deserve a credit that reassures me both in my own mind and the minds of others.

  4. Oh, I see.

    Very helpful (and true for me)

    Thankyou again, genkaku.

  5. genkaku - take two.

    aren't excuses 'reasons'

    We all have reasons (eg. limitations etc) for what we do, don't we?

    CAn someone really let that aside?

    Sorry for all the difficult questions.

  6. In the moment what one does will run to capacity. But should what one has done fail, does one recognize and take responsibility for that failure and attempt to correct it? Or does one try to wiggle out of it by denying the failure and the need for correction? or blame the unexpected other and insist the responsibility to correct it lies elsewhere?