Naked candidates

John Latta
Executive Editor
[email protected]

The presidential primaries are around the corner, so here’s a mind game that might help you figure out which candidate you prefer.

Before you turn down the chance to play, consider this. Scientists have now shown that exercising your brain with mind games can slow or delay age-related decline in your mental sharpness. One significant trial in Israel found this effect among 121 volunteer mind gamers, all over 50.

Big companies are catering to an increasing demand. Gaming giant Nintendo makes the Brain Training series, largely based on the work of leading Japanese neuroscientist Dr. Ryuta Kawashima. One 69-year-old British woman said she had a “brain age” of 75 before she started playing. Now she has the brain of a 27-year-old.

But instead of doing math problems, crosswords, matching shapes or solving sudoku puzzles, why not find a really useful mind game? Let’s play “Naked Candidates Driving.”

Presidential primary candidates build their campaigns on the premise that they have the money and the power to create an image to affect you.

They feel they are in control. They model and remodel themselves to appeal to you. They have think tanks and an entourage to sell them. You don’t know them, so you either sift through news media reports if you are really interested, or make what you can of what you stumble across via radio or television. You are a “chooser,” not a “player.” The candidates hold all the cards tightly in their hands.

But “Naked Candidates Driving” breaks their grip.

People who fear speaking in public, one of the most terrifying tasks many people ever face, have often been advised to “imagine the audience naked.” The idea is to rob the mob of its power to intimidate.

The audience, the advisers argue, are just people like you and me sitting there listening to someone. I don’t think imagining people naked would really help, but the idea by itself might just do the trick to help a nervous neophyte behind the microphone realize that the audience isn’t as tough as it looks.

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Same with the candidates. They aren’t really what you see on television or read about. They are just people, too, like the guy on Row H Seat 7 or the woman in Row V Seat 26. But how do you break through their “candidate” facade?

Easy. In my mind game you imagine them naked behind the wheel of a big rig. Wait – let’s not get down into the gutter here, you can imagine them in jeans, boots and a T-shirt if you like, anything to puncture their professionally polished image. Imagine them as real truckers. Try to think about a candidate doing the work you do.

You know this much about Candidate A and this much about B, C, D and E. Take any one of them. Do you think they would prefer to be a company driver or an owner-operator? Why? What make and model of tractor would they drive? Why? What sort of freight do you think they’d prefer, and how would they handle the daily fatigue and frustrations you put up with, alone, without their team of gofers and advisers?

Would they drive fast? Would they drive safely or take too many risks? Would they constantly change jobs or stand toe to toe with the company and slug it out for more pay and better conditions? How would they spec their rig? Would they customize, and if so, how? If you couldn’t drive, would you let them drive your rig?

OK, so it’s only a game. But you know your profession and the people in it. Trying to evaluate candidates by wondering how they would cope with the things you have to handle can be a valuable exercise (and there is always the brain fitness bonus).

When you evaluate a fellow trucker, you know what good qualities you are looking for. Which candidate best displays them?