I just got back from the laundry room in my building, where I moved two loads of wash into the two dryers. There's a sign on the wall there, reading "Be Prompt and Courteous," and then some language about getting your crap out of other people's way and not making them wait for the machines to be free. I don't know exactly what it says because the phrase "Prompt and Courteous" reminds me of a grade-school report card, and makes me smile.
But I have to admit to something that might be insufferable; in the back of my mind, there's the feeling that the sign really isn't meant for me, you see, but rather for the others who don't already feel an intrinsic motivation to move the laundry along.
I know self-congratulation is a pretty toolish quality, so I hope I can talk about this without appearing to go too far to the dark side. I spent a fair chunk of my younger life being deathly afraid of being a screw-up, and this led to an overcompensating smugness when it came to the few things I felt I had under control. I like to think I'm past that.
And then I think, hell, it's time to relax about that historical noise. It's going to be my job to take care of people who literally can't take care of themselves. Of course I should care about being excellent at... well, really, anything. I should notice the stuff I'm good at, as well as the stuff I'm not. I should work to get as much on the "good" list as I possibly can. It's basic, and ought to be obvious, and everybody should be doing it. Right?
I'm damn good at laundry. No over-filling, none of the thumpity-thumpity noise of an unbalanced tub. No clumps of detergent on the wet clothes, or lint on the dry ones. The wash cycle takes 26 minutes, according to the machine. I bet it was 28 when I happened to get up and go back there. I have an awesome internal clock.
I do the same thing with microwave food. I get up and cross the room in time for the beeeep, without having looked at the display. Obviously this is handy in those situations where someone asks, for example, "how long until the ambulance gets here?"
I really believe in my heart of hearts that I fold t-shirts the best possible way that human hands can fold them.
I think that other people must surely notice and admire that I take care to tweeze the stupid little hairs that sometimes grow around the outsides of my ears.
I wrecked the clutch in the car I drove when I was a teenager, because I misunderstood the fundamentals. Having learned my lesson, I believe that my current car has lasted to 102,000 miles because of my effective and talented application of the manual transmission. Which is, it should be said, far superior to an automatic transmission in every way.
I have a slight stutter that comes out when I'm tired or stressed, but in general I have excellent diction. My written grammar and spelling are nearly flawless.
This is not to say that I look down on people who turn their underpants pink by forgetting about a red sock, or people who kill their engines at a stoplight. Looking down on others is a horrible quality, and only the worst sort of people engage in such things.
And it's not like I don't have plenty of things I let slide. I should floss, but I don't, usually. I eat way too much frozen food. I procrastinate, and work on things in order of interest instead of order of importance. Like anybody, I can forget what really matters and get all caught up in my own ideas about what's happening around me. I think too damn much (...but you're reading my blog, so we both get a giant "duhh" on that one).
I'm a long way from perfect, and I'm not even excellent at all the things I want to be excellent about. It's just that I try, and I keep trying, and things continue to matter to me. I really think the world in general would be a much better place, if only a greater number of people gave a crap about actually doing well. What we do most of the time is to struggle just to get to "good enough." We stop before we get to "good." ...And then we collapse in a heap, only to complain about it ten minutes later.
My life happens to have diverted me to several points where "good enough" just wasn't good enough anymore. And when you've had that lesson bonked into your head repeatedly, it changes your point of view.
There's a line in Tallageda Nights, a generally un-excellent movie, where Ricky Bobby declaims his opinion on this very subject by telling an interviewer that he gets up in the morning, and pisses excellence.
I just checked on the dictionary definition of "declaim" and the spelling of "Talladega." See, I care about stuff.
Which is a part of why I proposed to Teslagrl. I'll tell you all about that in the next few days...