Posted by: hagengreen | January 17, 2010

Consequences of patching the road with tar

There are a million ways to do things in life. We make decisions every day, moment to moment, what to do. Then come the reactions and consequences. What we face in daily life is, in part, dictated by our previous actions. Everything else is a consequence of what others have done, or the natural course of life. More often than not we find ourselves burdened, knowingly or unknowingly, from others’ actions. Making decisions calls for reasoning and consideration of situational resources, with the past, present, and future in mind. Unfortunately, it seems decisions are often driven by dollar cost than general welfare. There are so many examples of this practice: the fast food industry, using cheaper materials in building consumer products, and outsourcing of labor. Of course who makes the decision in question can vary the results quite widely. Someone may make a so-called selfish decision based on what’s best for him or her. In government, elected officials decide based on their representative constituency (or that’s the theory), and businesses make calls to maximize return on investment for the investors. But no matter who makes the decisions along the way, the price tag question inevitably comes up. The default route is easy street — if it’s cheaper and most people aren’t affected then we’ll do it. Perfect.

Which brings me to my topic: patching the road with tar. It’s cheap and easy to fill in road imperfections. But is it the right thing to do? It depends on who you to talk to. What are the alternatives? It depends how much you want to pay. Tar is the cheapest and easiest option that satisfies 98% of the users on the road. What about the remaining 2%? Motorcycles and bicycles come to mind. The skinner the tire the more dangerous the tar strip. Cars do just fine. Two-wheelers can get into serious trouble, especially if the road is too hot or wet. When it’s too hot, the tar is soft and will stick to a tire. If it’s hot enough, the tire can even get jammed at the edge of the pavement spelling trouble. Even more worrisome is wet conditions. The tar strip has a very similar feel to ice. (If you’ve never ridden on ice, I wouldn’t recommend it, but it is possible; I’ve done it.) Try pushing the pedal when the back tire is on tar and you’ll know something’s wrong.

So think twice before you patch your road with tar. It might be fine for you and even most other people, but consequences could be dangerous for others. Consider taking extra time to do the right thing, even if it’s at a higher cost. You never know, it might just cost less and be a better decision for everyone in the end.

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