It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

One of the blogs I read, written by James Howard Kunstler, is updated every Monday.  Mr. Kunstler is an author and social critic and some of his ideas seemed offensive to me when I first started reading them, mostly because I had never considered that there might be a finite amount of everything in the world and there were such things as limits.

I have since reconsidered this idea.

Sometimes, when Mr. Kunstler writes and speaks, he’ll say “it seemed like a good idea at the time.”  When I first started reading his weekly blog posts, this expression helped me to understand that inventions such as nuclear reactors, GMO-laden processed foods, and ugly suburban architecture were not necessarily created by an evil cabal of men and women who wanted to control me and world.

Just because something seems like a good idea doesn’t necessarily mean it is a good idea.  Sometimes, there are even evident facts which should lead a person to conclude that something isn’t a good idea no matter what.  Imagine a person had a DeLorme map and this map said:

“When determining road conditions for the three lowest classes of roads, we used the following rule of thumb: the unbroken double-line roads are usually passable by passenger car.  The unbroken double-line roads may require travel by two-wheel-drive truck.  The single dashed line trails may require four-wheel-drive vehicles, if passable at all.” (Taken from the Maine Atlas & Gazetteer, 25th edition, copyright 2002, emphasis mine.)

The discontinued road that goes by The Farm is represented on a map with a single dotted line.  DeLorme categorizes this as a “trail” in their legend of map symbols.  The road is not passable by passenger car any time of year, but it probably seemed like a good idea at the time to a woman who drove her Toyota station wagon through the big puddle by Baumer’s Field yesterday.    After all, it was a glorious day for a country drive and there weren’t any ATV’s on the deeply rutted trail.

I was walking in the woods, thinking deep thoughts about trees and land.  It was cold and windy, but the deeper forest shielded me from the blast.  The sound of the wind blowing through the tree tops was all I heard.  I eventually made my way over the power line and back to the single dashed line and started walking.  The woman in her station wagon stopped and rolled down her window.  I explained that she was on a private road and it wasn’t passable.  I suggested she turn around.  She pointed to her DeLorme map and said “it’s a dotted line.”


I walked off and she proceeded to get stuck.  I won’t bore you with the consequences of what she thought must have been a good idea at the time.  I don’t know how it will turn out today.  I did my best to help; her friends picked her up after dark.  Even though I brazenly drove over the trail to the “other side” in my four-wheel drive Jeep once on a dry summer afternoon, there was that moment when I knew that if I got stuck I was BLEEPED.  I vowed I would never do it again because the consequences of the risk exceeded the reward.

Heavy sigh here…a good idea quickly turns into a bad idea when people ignore the obvious warning signs.

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3 Responses to It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

  1. Well said. And it’s tragic that dollar signs keep people from facing the obvious and doing what’s right.

  2. Loosehead Prop says:

    And Carol, though Julie’s blog is not about any politics but local, it seems that Kunstler today hits exactly your point. Nice synchronicity. He writes:

    “Here’s what’s actually going on. The Federal Reserve can only pretend to have any option besides force-feeding ‘money’ into Wall Street as if it were a Strasbourg Goose with Crohn’s disease. What passes through goose is a vile toxic substance called malinvestment, which turns the energies of society into activities that produce nothing of value, like hedge fund employee bonuses, NSA operations, Tesla car promotion, Frank Gehry condo towers, drone strikes against Afghani wedding parties, Obama photo ops, inflated auction prices of oil paintings, and Barney’s new Jay-Z holiday fashion collection.”

    Of course, getting your minivan stuck in the woods and having to call a tow truck — twice — to pull it out, that’s good for the GDP, isn’t it!

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