The prolongation of things

by Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte)

jeff-smI recently read the book by Daniel Kahneman entitled Thinking Fast and Slow. It’s an excellent book and I highly recommend it, even if it’s a little tough sledding at times.

One story that Kahneman tells is the time when the government of Israel decided that it wanted to update the curriculum for a particular course of studies (I forget exactly which, but it doesn’t matter). Once the group, of which Kahneman was a member, had worked on the project for a short amount of time, they all got together and came up with an estimate of how much longer it would take to finish the project. The consensus was that it would take a year to year and a half.

It turned out that one of the people present had actually been involved in similar tasks before, and he was asked how long it had actually taken, on average, for the other groups to finish. The answer: usually about seven years, if they finished at all.

Everyone was aghast to hear this news, and nobody believed it, at least at the time. Seven years later, when they had finally finished, they had all become believers. Of course, by then, the original government that wanted to update the curriculum was long gone, and the new government had lost all interest. So nothing came of the endeavor.

Which brings me to our quest to open a winery/tasting room. The latest twist is that, in an effort to avoid having to build an expensive firewall, we’re asking the county of Solano to interpret their ordinance, which states that a winery needs to be “on the property” in order for a tasting room to be allowed, as meaning the winery simply needs to be “on the property”, as opposed to needing to be indoors.

Of course, I’ve been in Napa (adjacent to Solano County) the last number of months. Except, of course, for now, when I’m in Los Angeles for several weeks. Of course, as soon as I leave for Los Angeles, the planning department wants me to show up for a meeting. Which, of course, I can’t do, being in Los Angeles.

Bottom line, everything is put on hold until I return to Napa. Another few weeks lost.

So my winery/tasting room application seems to be going the way of the Israeli curriculum. What once seemed so straightforward, even elementary, has devolved into a seemingly endless battle with red tape.

I have come to think a good rule of thumb is that when you envision any task that you need to do, and come up with an idea of how long you think it’s going to take, you should probably automatically double your estimate. In fact, you should probably double it a second time. If getting the task done depends upon somebody else doing anything, double it yet again. If that somebody is a governmental entity, I don’t know that another doubling is enough.

I wish I could get upset with somebocy, but I can’t. Everybody, in their view, is just doing their jobs. What is a matter of great moment and urgency to me is just another routine matter to the somebody else whose cooperation I need. If I were in their shoes, I would probably feel the same way.

At any rate, I’m trying to look on the bright side of things. The fact that they wanted to meet is probably a good sign. I have a hard time believing that, when push comes to shove, anyone really thinks that processing wine indoors instead of outdoors makes a whole lot of difference to anything. Hopefully that’s not just wishful thinking.

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