Once upon a time…. yes, it’s time for a fairy tale again ….there was a guy who had the nerve to think that he was good at problem solving. Let’s call him Sol for the sake of giving him a name. Not that the name has any importance or relevance to this story, it’s just easier to refer to this guy that way.
Sol was not particularly gifted or intelligent, he didn’t have superhuman powers or extra sensory perception or any of such things. All he had was a credo: “use the right tool for the right problem”. The attentive reader will already have noticed that Sol’s credo consists of two components: the first part (although you will be forgiven for thinking it is the second part, but it isn’t, really) is about narrowing down and accurately identifying the problem, so that he would be sure indeed to be dealing with “the right problem”; the second part is identifying and selecting a tool that is adept at solving this particular problem, by the magic of a stationary time warp making it “the right tool”. This sounds deceivingly simple but Sol encountered mostly adversity when applying his credo. To make matters more complicated Sol had this really stupid, stubborn idea of trying to make a life out of problem solving. Big mistake! Poor, poor Sol!
Fast forward to the present.
Sol is working for a company that has many problems. Many, many problems, although most people in that company don’t seem to see these problems. Doesn’t matter, Sol sees them. He might have become oversensitive for problems, who knows, fact is that Sol sees them, and it worries him, because he is that kind of guy. But Sol is not totally stupid, experience has taught him that most people don’t like talking about problems beforehand, when they haven’t yet seen or experienced them themselves. So he bides his time. One day a problem will emerge in all it diabolic ugliness and then… WHAM! Sol will rip it apart, turn it upside down and inside out, leave no piece of it intact until he has gone to the core of it, and then… only then will he quietly present his plan for solving it. And so on, ad eternum, until all the problems are solved.
Sol is working for a man who doesn’t believe in Sol’s credo (and we are only dealing with the first part of it so far). Let’s call this man Lem. Again, the name is not important. Lem has his own way of dealing with problems. It’s a very simple and proportionally effective technique: he ignores the problem until it hits the company in the face at 4 times the speed of light, at which time he starts cursing and yelling at the problem and at those most affected by it, believing that this will make the problem go away. Which it rarely does. Sol knows this. He is not particularly impressed with the technique, but his hands are tied. Lem has ordered him to spend all his time at solving non-problems, which Sol finds annoyingly boring and a little bit a waste of his time and self-perceived skills. But what can he do? A problem is like a fish, one has to lure it with the right bait, be patient until it bites, hook it and reel it in when it can’t escape no more. Funny enough, Sol has never fished, but he knows this instinctively.
Then one day, Sol can usually feel it coming, after much yelling and cursing, Lem will come to Sol and instruct him to solve this particular problem. Now the fish is on the hook. Now it’s a matter of reeling it in. Slowly. Patiently. It can still escape. One must develop a bond with it, treat it with respect. It’s a phenomenal opponent. Relax the line a bit. Let it think it can escape, it will only hook itself more firmly. This takes prowess, it takes experience. Sol has those in spades. Once the fish – euh, the problem – has been reeled in and is completely at the mercy of Sol’s problem solving abilities, Sol begins the dirty digging-and-cutting work. Layer after layer is peeled off, much to the dismay of Lem who thinks it all takes far too long. And it smells. His approach would be to smack the
fish problem with a fifty-pounder and call it a day, problem solved. So again there is much yelling and cursing, this time directed at Sol. But Sol persists, the problem is his now, he can do with it what he wants. And he wants one thing only: to dissect it, to analyze it, to study it, so that he can get to the heart of it, and then drive a stake through it, for eternity eradicating it. That’s what he’s good at, that’s what he likes to do, for those moments he lives.
But it has to be the right stake.
Not every stake is fit for the purpose.
We’ve now come to the second part of Sol’s credo: the right tool. Eventually Sol manages to shut op Lem long enough to find the heart of the problem. Once he gets that far, he also knows what kind of stake he needs. And that’s where another of life’s little annoyances rears its ugly head. Because good stakes don’t come free. And Lem doesn’t spend his money easily. He has a friend who advises him on these matters. They’re very good friends and spend as much time together as they can. Let’s call this friend Prob, it’s a kind of funny name, I know, but it’s just for the sake of identifying him in this plot. Prob is a guy who capitalizes on the ignorance of people in the domain of stakes and related matters. He exercises the oldest profession in the world: he consults for money. Nothing wrong with that. Someone has to do the dirty work. The problem is that he also makes money out of selling a certain brand of stakes call Parathyra. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with Parathyra stakes either, except that they are of low to modest quality, usually break easily and are generally a pain in the ass. Only when one is stupid enough to put them there of course. Which an amazingly large number of people do, surprisingly enough.
Back to Prob, the stakeholder (pardon the pun) in Parathyra stakes. Prob doesn’t believe in Sol’s credo either, he sides completely with Lem, he always does. He has no use for the heart of a problem. Couldn’t care less whether it had one either. Prob would much rather drive his Parathyra stakes haphazardly through any part of the problem, whether that’s useful or not. He’s not as bad as some in his trade who won’t even wait for a problem to appear at all, as long as they can drive stakes left and right. When clients feebly remark that these Parathyra stakes are not exactly what they expected, that they break so easily, that they are so complicated to handle, they use the oldest technique in the world: blame it on their inexperience, their clumsiness. Until after a while, the stakes become the problem. Big time too! Nobody seems to care but Sol and a few like-minded souls.
You can guess the outcome of the problem solving expedition. Wrong stake is used, problem refuses to die properly, re-emerges some time later and the whole charade starts from the beginning.
What happens to Sol? Well, Sol eventually has enough of getting up against the Prob-Lems of this world. He finally sees the light, gives up his problem solving dream, doesn’t mention his abilities to anyone anymore, collects a nice set of good stakes for his own use and solves his own problems from then on. And together with his beautiful bride, called Ver, which he rescued from the dragon a long time ago, but that’s a different fairy tale altogether, he lives happily ever after.
And that’s the whole story. Not much of a fairy tale but at least it ends like one, doesn’t it?
Postscriptum: a whole booming industry develops around Parathyra stakes, making lots of people immensely rich, until the population of the planet finally has enough of it, lynches all the consultants that drove them to use these stakes and burns down Seattle, although why that place was singled out is unknown.
It’s a fairy tale after all.