MOLA:42’s Guide to the Path of Least Resistance (or Fun With Statistics)
Once again it is Story Time (whee). And I promise my story does connect up with the Eureka Police Department’s recent distribution to the public of their crime statistics magic number circus (how, I’m not sure yet).
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Once upon a time, for my sins, I was employed by a large insurance company. People would ask me what my job title was and I would reply, “Corporate Junior Minion: Third Class.”
After years of hard work and canine-like devotion I eventually worked my way up to the lofty position of Corporate Junior Minion: Second Class.
It was in that role that my supervisor one day called me into her office (“Close the door, sit down”). Fortunately I wasn’t in trouble this time. My supervisor was pale with worry because of an email she got from a company Vice President. It seemed that the august person wanted some information from us.
“Do we collect this kind of data?” my supervisor asked hopefully.
“No,” I replied. “Only a moron would think this would be of any use.”
“Hmmm…“, my supervisor mused. On one hand, she didn’t appreciate the implication I called a VP a moron. But on the other hand… I was right.
“What do we do?”
I almost suggested we inform the VP in question that no sane person would track the data she wanted; but even Corporate Junior Minion: Second Classes’ know there would be no way that would lead to a happy ending.
“I guess I can cook something up.”
“You think so?”
“We shall see.”
So I wandered back to my little gray cubicle, found something that very roughly in a distant sort of way kind of reflected what was being asked for… changed it around slightly, added graphs, charts and corporate pumpkin pie recipes, tied it all up in a neat ribbon and got back with my supervisor.
“Well, here it is…”
“Do you think you’ll get away with it?”
“There’s only one way to find out.”
So we sent my work of statistical creative writing off to the VP.
I had heard before of people who just made up data for nonsensical requests but this was the first time I had been asked to do it myself.
It was fun. My co-workers heard giggles emanating from my cubical for days.
Then about a week later we heard back from the Vice President in question. I won’t say we made her Christmas card list but she was very pleased since she used the data we manufactured in a major presentation and it went over very well.
My supervisor and I praised the gods of Corporate Tricky Maneuvers and considered ourselves adequately dodged of the proverbial bullet.
I really never was very comfortable in the corporate world and I tended toward acts of passive aggression… One time I nearly got fired for what I was doing with a hand puppet (cubicles make great puppet stages).
But that is another story.
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Sometimes I imagine my funny numbers being the basis of vast corporate maneuvers. Who knows? Perhaps they are even at the very foundation of Obamacare.
But it has also occurred to me that there must be thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Corporate and Government Junior Minion: Second Classes’ out there who have faced the same problem and solved it the same way I did.
Just how much of the information that determines the fates of corporations and governments are really nothing more than “goofy” data?
There is a basic reality in any social situation that is as immutable as the laws of physics: Everything flows downhill along the Path of Least Resistance.
If it is easier to cook up a few numbers than cause a VP to face reality then you get out your Corporate Junior Minion: Second Class standard issue Easy-Bake Oven and sauté some digits.
Sometimes the Path of Least Resistance leads to where one belongs anyway.
Sometimes the Path of Least Resistance leads to a great deal of evil.
A recent case in point: For years the public has been enraged at the Veterans Administration because it is usual for Vets to have to wait as long as two years to receive needed medical treatment. Sometimes the Vets die waiting.
So the VA sent a directive out… shorten the waiting periods or else. Of course the VA didn’t allocate any additional resources nor did they make any suggestions as to how this was to be accomplished.
But lo and behold! In Arizona a VA hospital did just that, reducing average waiting list times from over a year to just two weeks.
Bureaucratic congratulations and back slapping ensued…
It was found they kept the waiting list down to two weeks by creating a “pre-waiting list waiting list.” The Vets were put on this list until room opened up on the “official” two week waiting list.
The average wait on the “pre-waiting list waiting list” was over a year and some Vets died on that list.
In the Tuluwat Examiner’s article questioning the veracity of the Eureka Police Department’s recent crime statistics release: ”EUREKA DON’T BELIEVE YOUR LYIN’ EYES! NOTHIN’ TO SEE HERE. POLICE CHIEF SAYS THERE’S NO CRIMEWAVE,” the Tuluwat Examiner pointed out goofy numbers were created for the study by only counting Crime Reports filed (which are far less numerous than calls for assistance, otherwise known as “Computer Assisted Dispatches”).
The moral of that particular story? It is easier to fight crime when there is no crime. And there is no crime if you don’t file a Crime Report. Also; it is easier to do nothing than it is to do something.
Unfortunately, there is only one solution to this sort of problem: One needs to construct a new “Path of Least Resistance” (in some cases a greater engineering fete than the Pyramids). That means, in this case, that it needs to be easier for the Police Officer on the street to file a Crime Report than it is to give the victim of a crime a shrug of the shoulders before moving on.
How is that done? I’m not sure.
The only thing I can think of is the next time a police officer won’t file a Crime Report for you, stubbornly and vehemently insist a Crime Report be filed… to the point that the cop has to haul you off to jail to shut you up.
You’ll get a Crime Report then: I guarantee.
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Standard Disclaimer: My opinions are my own and not necessarily those of the Tuluwat Examiner. I am not on the staff of the Tuluwat Examiner. I don’t even know who these people are. But I have been told the Staff of the Tuluwat Examiner have opened a new money making venture called, “Reality Reclamations Inc.” For a modest donation they will come to the location of your “Computer Assisted Dispatch” after the EPD has left and put up stickers, posters and signs that read, “This Is Not a Crime Scene.” For an additional charge they will dress as Thugs and Thieves and laugh spitefully at you.
I don’t think the last feature is a very good value for your money however: The real Thugs and Thieves are already doing the laughing for free.
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