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Sunday, September 25, 2005 

The Lost Art of Perfection

Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle. --Michaelangelo
Before I came to Greece, I spent 12 years in the graphic arts industry. The quote from Michaelangelo basically sums up my job description. Every single ad, brochure, billboard, and logo that was ever produced by my department was the result of the unending quest for perfection. Nothing was too small or insignificant to change. For example, a map appearing in an ad for the US had British spellings for "harbour". Even though the type was almost too small to read, we still spent hundreds of dollars redoing the film to get it right. If our deadline for publication was 9am Monday morning, we would pull all stops trying to meet that deadline--often spending nights and weekends at the office to get it there on time. One of my first jobs was at a newspaper and I remember the editor flying down the stairs from his office in a range because there were 14 spelling errors in that morning's edition of the newspaper. Even in school, every misspelled word cost me a half point in my final grade.

As much as I would have loved to let something slide in the hopes that no one would notice because of all the extra work striving for perfection entails, I couldn't do it. I still can't let things slide. This is why I come home on the verge of a heart attack because my dry cleaning wasn't ready on time, my kitchen cupboards have 2 different face designs (because they broke the router and figured the other design was just as good) or I picked up my car from the car wash and the interior has just as much dust as when I dropped it off for cleaning.

It's ironic in a country where most Greeks are so house-proud and their children look like they've just stepped off a Lapin House billboard that they've become accustomed to shoddy work performed by others. You'll see it in the small things (like the ones I've just mentioned) to the more important things like house construction where my friend's house was designed with a car garage that doesn't have enough space for her to open her car doors. If you ever complain to the female storeowner (whose own house probably would give Martha Stewart a run for her money) that the curtains you just bought from her are full of wrinkles and the wrong length, she'll tell you "Come on now, it's not as if they'll hang in Versailles!"

This lethargic attitude is prevalent everywhere in our society. Is it because we just don't care anymore to go that extra mile? Is it because it really doesn't matter if we do or not? Imagine if the ancient Greeks had taken that kind of attitude when they built the Acropolis or Epidavros. Or if the Romans believed dirt trails were just as good as the roads that they could build. I'm a firm believer that trifles do make masterpieces and masterpieces define our society.

This was the one thing that most shocked me when I moved to Greece. I guess I had gotten too caught up in my knowledge of the ancients, and expected modern day Greece to be just as splendid.


While I accept your points and agree with you. I do think you have to accept that this laid back lifystyle that everyone thinks is so great about Greece comes from the fact that Greek people don't find themselves on (as you put it)"verge of having a heart attack because their dry cleaning wasn't ready on time". I do think there's more important things to worry about.

I do hope at some point in time, we'll find a happy medium. The Greek system as you describe it is nowhere near perfect but I'd also hate to live in the environment you described in the USA.

I wouldn't be "on the verge of having a heart attack" just because my drycleaning wasn't ready...it's a series of unseemingly never-ending events like that in just ONE day that drives me batty. I can't afford to pay 1,000€ for curtains and have them the wrong length, or try to get to an important meeting when my clothes aren't ready or pay 12€ for nothing. This isn't what I'm talking about. I like the laid back way of life...ON VACATION. Not when it comes to business. And I don't even mind it when things like this happen sporadically...
but continuously? If it's happening on the small things in life, then I guarantee you it's happening on the bigger things. Why do you think senior citizens are dying in retirement homes? By accident? No. There is a chain of events that precede such crimes. Someone says "don't worry about the meat...it's only a week past expiry." Dying on the roads? Someone is thinking to themselves "why not take a 'fakelo' from this contractor? A road is a road." There's no excuse for it. And it's not just Greece...this attitude is prevalent in many places.

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