Automatic Window Roller Uppers and Other “Great” Ideas

A few years back I had the chance to drive a 1997 Saturn 5-speed coupe for a while. It was a pretty nice car and I drove it back and forth on my tri-weekly 2 hour commute from the Quad Cities of IL to the Chicago Suburbs for my 24hr ambulance shift. It actually worked out well because the pay for paramedics was so much higher in the Chicago area than it was where I lived. I’d go up, do a 24 or a 48 hour shift, and have plenty of time to work my other jobs back home.  I didn’t really mind the drive but I’d save so much money by driving the Saturn instead of my full-size truck that I’d drive it whenever the ex-gf would let me.

One thing about driving the highways around Chicago is the incessant amount of toll-booths that one must cross while driving there. There are literally more toll-booths than I can count and every one of them requires a person to get out of traffic, stop, and pay the toll. It’s annoying in a car with an automatic transmission and even more annoying with a manual transmission. It aggravates me to say the least.

One of the features of the 97 Saturn SL 2 Coupe is an automatic window roller downer (is there a better name for that?) where the window will roll all the way down with just one click of the button. It was actually pretty handy for going through a toll-booth in a car with a manual transmission. I could click the button, then focus on downshifting for the quickest stop possible. This feature is common on cars nowadays, but back in the primitive turn-of-the-century it was my first Automatic Window Roller Downer Feature and I thought it was pretty cool… Except for one problem:

The window only went down automatically, It wouldn’t roll back up with only one click and had to be *manually* automatically rolled back up again. Yes, by this I mean I actually had to use one whole finger to hold the button. It was kind of a minor annoyance when I had to reaccelerate while shifting the manual transmission. Back then I didn’t think it was a huge annoyance, mind you… but I thought that the simple addition of an automatic roller back upper feature would have been much better. I could just imagine that the simple change would make it more useful and I was a tad angry about the shortsightedness of the engineers. I mean, why couldn’t they have thought of this when it seemed so obvious to my 20yo self? If I had thought of it had to be a good idea, right?

Well then some years later, I rented a car that actually had both an automatic roller downer feature *and* an automatic roller upper feature. I was so happy to find that! It was SO COOL! Finally the engineers had listened to my private thoughts that I never shared with anyone and put in my feature! I was happy.

Then I tried it for a while… and it sucked.

Yea, having a “one click” roller upper feature means never just cracking the window open a bit. One click may bring the window down a touch, but the auto feature keeps it rolling down all the way. In the previous design, without the automatic roller upper, this could be stopped by one quick click in the other direction. However, with the automatic roller upper feature, the window just rolls back all the way up! Getting the window open just a little bit is nearly impossible. Then I thought that if a kid or a less-than-intelligent adult chanced to stick their head through the open window and the button got depressed, the window could roll all the way up and choke them. The automatic window roller upper feature is annoying as heck and wasn’t the great idea that I thought it would be. It was an idea that I didn’t think all the way though. I thought I was smart and well, I wasn’t. It’s probably a good idea that I didn’t get all fired up and start a national letter writing campaign to lobby the car companies to put in automatic window roller upper features (Which I would have urged them to rename to “Chris’s Awesome Mega RoLL uPPahhz”) because then I would have looked like an idiot to more people than just myself. It’s the reason why I rarely orchestrate nationwide letter writing campaigns: experience. 

This got me thinking about all of the ideas that I’ve had about things in EMS and in other aspects of my career that I didn’t think wholly through. Steve Whitehead, the genius behind wrote an article recently that spoke of the fatal flaws in the heroes of Greek Tragedy that I really liked. You can find the article here 8 Tragic EMS Behavior Flaws to Avoid” (I’ll link it at the end too, because you really should read it) but here’s what struck me so blatantly in the article:

The Critic – “This is all so stupid”

This is perhaps the easiest of all the hero flaws to slip into and the toughest to shake. The critic is convinced that the world desperately needs his or her opinions on the way things ought to be.  They figure out that offering opinions is so much more fun and rewarding than working to solve a problem and then it becomes like a drug. Soon they’re framing everything they see with the question, “How should this be done better?” and then offering their sage analysis. Usually with a poor understanding of why the thing is the way it is in the first place.

The problem with the critic is that they genuinely believe that the world wants to hear their endless assessments and when an army of engineers doesn’t show up to start doing the hard work of implementing all their great ideas, they get frustrated. The second problem is that they jump to analysis without seeking to ever understand the nature of the problem. Research and implementation are hard, but critical evaluation is fun and easy. As long as they don’t build anything real, they never have to worry about the next critic showing up, spending a few minutes looking at what they built and offering up their sage criticism.

This is the part of Steve’s article that really got me thinking. Have I been “The Critic” too often in my career? I mean, I don’t try to do this… but I find faults in a lot of aspects of contemporary EMS. I look at things and try to find ways to make them better. If you’re a regular reader, in-fact, that’s probably why you come to read what I have to say as often as you do. New ideas are great.

However, as my Automatic Window Roller Upper debacle (that yes, wholly occurred only within the boundaries of my own cranial cavity) has shown, some ideas that come to me and seem so obvious can also be bad ideas. My experience has proven to me time and time again that I need to think things through. I try, but EMS doesn’t always allow us the time to consider all options, let alone every aspect of every option. The Law of Unintended Consequences abounds and rears its ugly head quite often.

As the years have drug on, I’ve been trying to analyze my “Great” ideas more fully, but one person rarely has the ability to completely devise the correct answer to every problem. Two heads are better than one a lot of the time and systems have a way of developing themselves.

So as we go forth to change this thing we call EMS and usher in the new world of EMS 2.0, let’s remember to consider as many reasoned opinions as we can. We need your input and we need your participation. The more we grow together, the better our ideas become.

Oh, and here’s that link to Steve’s Article again: “8 Tragic EMS Behavior Flaws to Avoid”

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Chris Kaiser aka "Ckemtp"

I am a paramedic trying to advance the idea that the Emergency Medical Services can be made into the profession that we all want it, need it, and know it deserves to be.

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