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Variance Chip

04/29/2014 @ 9:55am

I got my pickup back last week.  It’s been a hard time for me. I’m a pickup guy - I’ve been driving one nonstop since 1973, so it was kind of tough when the loaner car I got was a minivan.  A nice minivan, but still, I died a little each time I climbed in.

A month ago or so my pickup got smacked in the rear end.  A young man took a corner a little too fast and my parked pickup was in his way and defenseless.

The pickup was a bit of a mess and it took a while for the insurance company to figure out that since I’d been giving them money for forty years, they had an obligation to fix it.  I bought clear duct tape to hold the tail light in place, but that was about $8,000.00 short of being a complete fix.

When the guy who fixed it called to say it was done, I raced over to pick it up.  As I stood there admiring his work, he explained to me how hard it is to match paint colors.

“You’d think white was just white,” he said, “But there are lots of different shades, and even if you have the right formula, if the car is old or has been in the sun a lot, it won’t match.  That’s why you have variance chips.”

Yet another thing I know nothing about.  The list is getting longer and longer.  

Anyway, what he told me was that a variance chip is just a slight, subtle difference in shade and tone that, if you’re careful and have a good eye, enables you to match the paint color perfectly.

I gotta say, the world could use a lot more variance chips, and I’m not just talking paint colors.

We seem to live in a world where people tend to see everything in black and white.  Of course, there are some black and white issues, but for a regular person, not all that many.  An example might be zero tolerance for weapons in school.  Sounds fine, except due to the lack of a variance chip (or a common sense chip), a kindergartner can get expelled because he wants to show his teacher the miniature Swiss Army knife his uncle gave him.   Now, I believe in policies – they add clarity, fairness, and transparency to an organization.  The problem with policies is that people follow them blindly in hopes of not having to make decisions.  

Another example could be the brouhaha our state is having over medical marijuana.  I understand that legalizing drugs is a serious thing, and it’s an issue that serious people should discuss at some length.  But there are also people who are being helped, right now, by some of the products that are extracted from some forms of marijuana, and it’s hard for me to believe that there isn’t some kind of “variance chip” available that shifts the discussion away from being purely black and white.

When something as simple as painting a white truck white requires flexibility and judgment, maybe we, as a society, need to recognize that there’s not really much that’s purely black and white.  Maybe we should use a few more variance chips in hopes of getting closer to a perfect match.

Copyright 2013 Brent Olson

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