Pop Songs and a Screwdriver

Jettenbach, Germany

 

One fall afternoon, I went out to the garage to put new license plates on my car. My dad was at his workbench with his flea market radio playing easy listening orchestral versions of old pop songs. I grabbed a screwdriver from his red tool chest, we exchanged a few words, and I walked over to my ten-year-old convertible Ford Falcon in the driveway. I struggled with the rusted screws, got some WD-40 from the garage, and finally got them off. My dad walked over and knelt next to me. 

“You can’t use those old screws,” he said. I followed him into the garage, and he started digging through a well-worn, oil-stained cardboard box full of nuts and bolts. He found one, then another, then threw the first one back––“Dad, I’m going to use the old screws.” 

“Puh—if you can’t do it right, don’t do it all.” I’d heard that a thousand times, and it bugged the hell out me. He’s a perfectionist, I thought, and I can’t get a damn thing done when he’s around. But I was wrong. There’s a difference between perfection and doing it right. Perfection is a trap. Doing it right is quality.