One does not do simply, what one can do well

A broken kitchen cabinet drawer prompted a call to building maintenance the other day which resulted in the arrival of the ‘carpenter’ the next morning at our apartment.

Fixing the draw was a doddle, it was simply a case of replacing a broken screw that held the bracket into which said drawer slid. This he promptly did. Once he’d finished and was getting set to head off – one would assume to his next ‘mission,’ I pulled the old ‘woah there lad, whilst you here…’

Well in the same stack the three other draws never quite rolled in and out cleanly. They open and closed fine, but they were clearly miss-aligned. Of course he chose not to comprehend, forcing each draw in and out and proclaiming: ‘all okay, no problem.’

‘No, no, little problem,’ I persisted demonstrating the scraping and chaffing and jamming myself.

He contemplated this for all of maybe a second and reached for the hammer in his tool kit. Drawing on all his professional experience, he clearly concluded that the optimal way to solve this problem was to bang the draws into submission.

Admittedly he had some success with this brutal methodology. Mindful of the fact that he might apply this methodology to me too, if his subtle irritation was anything to go by, as soon as the draws were reasonable clear of each other, even though they are hardly straight anymore, I nodded my spurious approval and let him on his un-merry way.

Well almost. He didn’t exactly charge off, but shuffled his way out, looking at me pointedly and saying ‘okay, okay?’ at least several times more than necessary – you know that thing they do to try and elicit some sort of token of our appreciation – ie a tip.

And mine was forthcoming, in the form of a several ‘thank-yous’ and a broad smile (well a smile is charity according to the Prophet), whilst closing the door in his expectant face; undoubtedly a few silent curses were uttered on the other side of which.

What I really wanted to say was: ‘you want a tip? Here’s a tip: taking some effing pride in your work, put some thought into it, at least try to do it well!’

Of course it was extremely unlikely that there would have been any comprehension of such sage advice, not just due to the language barrier, but because it wouldn’t compute. His liberal use of a hammer was also still a very distinct memory, and hence another key factor in my quiet resolve not to involve him in conversation.

Perhaps you think I’m being harsh, perhaps I’m unsympathetic to the fact that he must surely be miles from home, piss poor, living in horrible conditions, overworked, hungry and probably dehydrated. And perhaps you’re right. But this is, after all his job. And don’t we all make compromises for our livelihood or suffer for our art?

My take has always been that whatever you do, whether it be tightening a bolt, or ruling a country, you should be the best you can be at it. Back to the carpenter, fixing draws and the like is his job, yet he seemed rather put-out to have to do it – or do it well, I should say.

Let’s stop picking on him though, I recall several times encountering car sales people in main dealerships uncertain about the details of their products: ‘what does this switch do, how does the warranty work, what exactly does the price include?’ This always leaves me dumbfounded and uttering that immortal line (albeit in my head): ‘you have ONE job..!’

Possibly my expectations are placed too high, drawn from the fact that I’ve always put more than 100% into any task I’ve undertaken, and am still never quite satisfied with end result. Maybe I shouldn’t judge others by the high standards I levy on myself?

Maybe humanity as a whole is pre-programmed to accept ‘okay’ rather than ‘outstanding’.

Yet I must maintain, as Lord Chesterfield wrote in England in 1746: ‘in truth, whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.’

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