Tuesday, June 10, 2008

My Never-Ending Quest For Perfection

Did I mention that I'm a perfectionist?

It's an illness, really. It doesn't do me or anyone around me any favors. Though it does mean that more often than not the throws in my living room are centered neatly and precisely over the couch cushions (and I spend way too much time going behind my family and re-straightening them this way).

I am outgrowing it some as I get older. And as I realize that we live in an increasingly imperfect world. Lately, my quest has been not so much for perfection, but simply...competence. And I am finding that even that is much harder to attain than it should be.

I used to say that my family was simply unlucky when it comes to things like home repairs, cars, any major purchase, really. No one ever does anything right for us the first time. We (I; Jason is an eternal optimist) just prepare for that now. But I hear of the same crap happening to everybody; as it says in a song I heard in the Mary Poppins parody The Simpsons did, a half-ass job is the American way.

Here are some examples:

1. The saga of the garbage disposal. Our old one died (loudly at first; then, it just ceased to work, bless its heart) so we bought a new one and arranged for a contractor that works through the local big-box hardware store to install it. I knew the minute the guy started that we were going to have trouble; the genius shocked himself multiple times before he "remembered" to ask how to turn off the breaker. A job that was supposed to take 30 minutes turned into an hour, and he packed up and left. Two weeks later I opened the door under the sink to see a small lake had formed under the disposal, drowning my Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. Those damn things ain't cheap. The disposal also had a noticeable lean to it. I was pretty sure they are supposed to hang, you know, straight. A little investigative work revealed that the disposal was leaking in two places. The same guy came back out, scratched his head, and said the problem had to be with the disposal itself. So a new contractor had to bring an all new disposal out and install (for free; everything was still under warranty). He was talking to Jason and said, "Not to talk bad about our other installer, but I am pretty sure part of the problem was that the disposal wasn't straight and one of the pipes was left too long." Yee-haw.

2. Cars. the Impala Jason drives has been in the shop for the same problem twice in the past 2 years. And guess what? It's still not fixed! It's driveable for now, and we know that if we take it back it will have to go in to the shop at least two more times, because that's how EVERY SINGLE REPAIR ON THAT CAR HAS BEEN! It takes two, baby. They never find the right problem on the first try.

3. Eyewear. If my glasses aren't straight, it makes me nuts. And I must have a very crooked face, because opticians can never seem to get them straight. Other people's crooked glasses drive me up a wall, too, and I see it enough to know it can't just be me who picks up crooked glasses. When I pick up a new pair, I have to take them in for re-adjusting at least twice the first week. Inevitably, one technician will say, "They look fine to me," and I will drive home, endangering myself and others by checking the alignment in the rearview every 2.3 seconds, and I will realize only after I'm home that the left side is lower than the right. When Jason notices, I know it's bad. So back I'll go, feeling like a prissy, picky mess as I ask yet again for an adjustment. Occasionally I get validation; when I went back a third time with the glasses I am wearing right now, the lady said, "We let you walk out of the store like THAT?", and seemed like as much of a perfectionist as I am as she took 15 minutes to make tiny adjustments to make them look even to her even after they looked even to me.

Ainsley picked up her glasses Saturday, and all day I kept asking her to look at me, as I noticed that one side maybe was lower than the other (so hard to tell because one side magnifies her eye and the other has no power at all), one nose piece didn't fit flush against the side of the nose, they maybe weren't tight enough, etc., until Jason told me I was making both he and Ainsley insane. I grumbled about the pretty young thing who had given Ainsley her glasses and made a few adjustments, wondering how she could live with not doing such a great job making sure people's glasses fit. Jason, always the voice of reason, told me that good enough is good enough for most people, and that not everybody picks things apart and sees the tiny flaws and imperfections in everything.

I had an Oprah-esque "Ah-ha!" moment. They were good enough. They were comfortable, straight enough, and she claimed to see fine. I put my perfectionism on hold and saw that sometimes people do right by us and get things right the first time.

But then as I was cleaning them for her Monday morning, after she had been wearing them for less than two whole days, I saw something that looked like a hair stuck to the lens, but ended up being a deep crack in her supposedly uncrackable kid-proof polycarbonate lenses. Seeing as how she had done nothing more active in her glasses than standing in our neighbor's yard chatting with the neighborhood kids, Hank-Hill style, I got fired up. Incompetence strikes again!

So back we went, and it turns out there were some flaws in the lens, so they are remaking it and sending just the lens to be put it later by the provider (and Cranky, perfectionist pessimist that I am, am certain they'll do a crappy job and the lens will come popping out within days.)

The perfect day for me would be a day that the people who have to do things for me do a good job and strive as much for perfection as I do. But I would settle for a good-enough day, a day when people merely strive for competence and doing things right the first time.

Such a day apparently is too much to ask.

1 comment:

Karen said...

I'm so sorry. You must have the same luck as we do! I hope you didn't catch it from me!! :) Bought a house? Basement gets flooded the first winter. Bought a Play Station 2? The first one didn't work at all. See something you like? It's been discontinued. Have a screeching noise somewhere on your car? It takes the dealership seven tries to fix it (that was a Chevy too, by the way). It never ends.