Monday, August 14, 2006

Perfect Day

Thoughts on happiness, perfection, and the connection between the two were on my mind at work today. To be completely honest, it started yesterday morning as I served cantankerous people food and listened to them immediately complain and openly scorn me. At first I was frustrated and irritated; what right did those people have to come to my restaurant and then dispense ill-will at little offense? However, it suddenly occured to me after listening to a man complain that his food was cold and he had waited nearly twenty minutes for it, so he didn't want it to be sent back, but he certainly didn't expect to be paying for all of it, even though he was going to be eating it (note-this man also happened to come in ten minutes before we stopped serving breakfast and already had a room full of people who had already ordered. The first thing he did when I brought his food to him was touch it to check the temperature, as soon as I had put the plate down. Subtle, buddy. Real subtle.), it occured to me then that my happiness was not contingent on his.
He didn't like the service he recieved.
Was that my fault? Was that my problem?
No and no.
I surely did commiserate with the poor soul; nobody likes to be kept waiting even when it is unintentional. The difference was that I didn't really care if he was happy or not. That fact was not going to change the outlook I had on my day. This might be a bit of a dangerous attitude by which to venture deeper into the food service employment chain, but I trust that I can wield it properly. I don't think that it is nihilism or apathy for customer satisfaction, just a reaffirmation of priorities. And my priority is my own happiness.


On that note, let us turn to the connection of happiness and perfection. See, what is perfect is not always happy, and what is happy is not always perfect. Originally I was trying to think about what constitutes perfection and how to quantify or even vocalize the conception of perfection. There was this whole other tangential train of thought looking at the relationship between perfection and excellence and whether one was a subordination of the other or if the two operated in soleley autonomous spheres, but that is not the topic of right now, save to mention that excellence is a near semblance of perfection, but perfection is not excellence. Anyway, let us think of a cheeseburger with frenchfries. I love cheeseburgers. They make me quite happy. Even now, with dinner in the oven and a cup of coffee by my chair, just thinking about a juicy cheeseburger, richly melted cheddar cheese topped with crisp onions and pickles, thick slices of tomato, some fresh lettuce and a grilled kaiser bun dressed with a liberal helping of mayonnaise makes me salivate with happiness. Add in a side order of golden-brown frenchfries with a healthy (or not so healthy in one way of looking at it) helping of salt and you have yourself the cornerstone of an amazing meal. This cheeseburger is by no means widely regarded as emblematic of art, either high or low, but it is with all certainty, aesthetically pleasing to view. Something about how the tomato peeks out from underneath the fringe of lettuce, and there is just a hint of the pickle hidden in the middle. The way the golden-brown fries are tumbled helter-skelter like lincoln logs. The way the grease glistens in a soft sheen on the burger patty. These things just add up and you know that this is, without a doubt, a perfect burger. It makes you happy, and even more than that, you know that the cook who made this burger was also made happy by its perfection. Can one ascertain that the creation of perfection yields happiness? And furthermore, if this perfection is repeated over and over a countless number of times to the point at which it is no longer an awesome feat to achieve perfection, then the does the failure to attain the same quality of finished product result in unhappiness? Do the standards of perfection rely upon both the artist and the viewer?
I think that there must be a measure of impartiality when viewing art. The seasoned cook makes a perfect burger everytime and is aware of his skill, but thinks little of it, except to acknowledge that others find it remarkable. The junior cook makes a cheeseburger and thinks it to be the most aesthetically pleasing thing he has ever created, even when the diner percieves it to be less so than the casual masterpiece of the seasoned cook. So, then, does an artist have a wildly different view of the finished product, due to personal bias of either favor or unfavor? Maybe so, but in the end it might not matter. Just so long as everyone is happy in some matter or another, whether or not it comes from perfection.