When Biases Bite

When Biases Bite

“This will be the topic of your next email.” Michael Barravecchio

Those were the last words of my coach as we finished our call yesterday. He was right. I am sure you have heard of cognitive biases before. As Forest Gump might say, there are about a “go-zillion” of them. Reading through the list of them is about like listening to Forest describe all the different ways to prepare shrimp.

One of them has me pegged. Before I learned the official moniker, I would have called it the “This is going to be a slam dunk” bias. In 1979, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky first proposed it as the Planning Fallacy Bias. It is basically the tendency to grossly underestimate how long a task will take to complete. It also includes the tendency to underestimate the cost of a task. Yep, got that too.

No one in the house knows where the nozzle to the kitchen sink faucet went. Perhaps, there was an occasion when it was more than potato skins that were clogging up the disposal and we just persisted with the grinding until everything flushed down. For a while we were fine without it, but Sunday a new faucet-phenomena began. The water coming out was spraying in all directions and not all of it was making its way into the basin.

So, after dropping the boys off for school, I made Trip #1 one to Lowes. This is where the bias began. I would walk in, grab a new faucet, checkout and be on my way. The hardest part would be moving all the items from under the sink so I could disconnect the current faucet and all of its hoses and easily set the new faucet. How hard could it be?


The good news is I have another bias. The Unit Bias means you don’t stop until a task is finished. I definitely have that one. It can payoff but also has a dark side, like feeling like you always have to finish all the food on your plate. The other good news is that I was able to get out of bed this morning. Normally, that’s not a concern, but let me see if I can adequately describe the position my body was in for a large portion of yesterday. You probably guessed lying on my back. But with my mid-spine bent nearly 90 degrees backwards over the bottom of the cabinet. Thus, causing my hips to be four inches lower than my shoulder blades. I might be considered a broad-shouldered person. Even if I was narrower in stature, I still would have needed to contort my upper body to fit under the sink. By mid-afternoon I got the pattern down. Sit on the floor with my back to the sink. Do a half-situp and roll left while extending my right arm above my head to snake my right armpit around the back of the vertical board separating the two cabinet doors. Tuck my chin to my right collarbone and roll right to wedge my left shoulder under the sink. Then bend my left arm at the elbow to pin the back of my hand to my left shoulder giving it just enough space to fit around the drain pipe so I could work with both hands.

To make access easier, I removed the pipe that runs horizontally from the garbage disposal to the main drain line which meant my left ear would sit directly beside the now uncovered drain hole. That made for entertaining smells while I worked. I did get the water shut off before I started but most of the lines dripped their remnant water onto the floor of the cabinet. I mopped up some with a towel but the rest made a nice puddle for my head to lay in while I worked. That wouldn’t have been so bad if the disposal drippings weren’t mixed in.

Things got really interesting when I first attempted to remove the old faucet. Since I couldn’t see how it was attached, I snapped a couple of iPhone shots to reveal the corroded nut that was the final piece to remove. By process of elimination, I learned that none of my wrenches would either fit in the space or make the nut budge. A couple of YouTube videos later I discovered there is a wrench specially designed for this job – a basin wrench.

I had to go back out to take Jonah to his Noon orthodontist appointment. I would make stop #2 at Lowes and get one. My t shirt was soaked and so was the back of my head. With no running water, I had to towel off and throw on another shirt. Long story short, I now own a basin wrench if anyone needs to borrow it.

Back under the sink, not even the new wrench made the old nut budge. I was hoping not to need the WD-40 because I knew that once I sprayed it I would have it dripping in my face. The nut had to come off so I took one for the team. Success. The nut was off and so was the old faucet. My slam dunk was about to happen just as I expected it would several hours ago. Then new parts fit in place nicely. Fewer foul words were now proceeding from my lips until I realized that the new faucet hoses were not long enough to reach the hot and cold water lines.

Trip #3 to Lowes while picking up the boys, a few more rounds of contortion and “Tah-Dah!” we have a new faucet.

I knew that would be simple.




Rick Burris


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