May 27, 2021

Expert Advice

By Glenn

My dad, Yves “Buster” Melancon served for twenty seven years in the United States Army.  He earned the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 3.  He started his career as a mechanic and ended as an Automotive Superintendent.

Some of my best memories are helping him work on cars.  In the 1970s he didn’t have a computer to diagnose a problem.  Most of the time, he used simple observation.

I say simply, but it was trained.  He trained his eyes and ears to determine what was working and what was broken.  Dad was an expert.

Yves “Buster”/”Frenchy” Melancon, Somewhere, Vietnam

I find it odd that so many people today attack experts.  There is a good reason to listen to them.  Dad always said “Never let your gas tank go below one quarter.”

There were a couple of practical reasons for this advice.  First, you should never completely trust your gauges.  Running the gas down to the extreme limit could mean running out of gas.  Second, he had seen the bottom of gas tanks.  Water, sludge and other impurities settle down there. These are no friends to your engine.

Another great piece of advice was to always check your oil level.  By the 1980s, more and more cars only had what he called an “Idiot Light.”  To save money car companies started removing the oil pressure gauge.

The Idiot Light didn’t really provide the driver with any useful information.  It simply said, “hey idiot, you have a problem.”  It could be the water, the oil or some other unknown issue.

One night, my oldest brother ignored my dad’s expert advice.  He drove from DeRidder to Lake Charles for a concert.  He didn’t check the oil.  As he drove home in the middle of the night, the car ran low on oil and left him stranded.

Dad knew.  His training and experience educated him.  The Army promoted him and gave him responsibility based on his expertise.  As an officer in the United States Army, his expertise saved lives.

Yves “Buster”/”Frenchy” Melancon, Somewhere, Vietnam

Our society benefits so much from experts.  Experts provide clean drinking water, reliable energy, good roads and healthy bodies. 

The anti-expert fetish started in the 1960s.  Experts found that seat belts saved lives and wanted a law mandating seat belts.  Car companies lied and said seat belts killed.  I am so glad we listened to the experts.  The next big fight was over smoking and then second hand smoke.  Once again, the experts were right, and the tobacco industry was wrong.

Experts save lives.  Yes, sometimes expert advice is disruptive, but we ignore that advice at our own peril. We have the ability to solve problems if we are willing to train our eyes and ears. 

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