Tuesday, October 04, 2005


He was considered a maverick. Probably because he was one. Not that I actually knew it. He was my husband. Things always look different close up. I only found out about his wild horse tendencies a few months earlier, when the big boss at his engineering firm offered a magnum of champagne to meet the woman who had agreed to marry him.

But this story actually begins when the big boss retired a few months later. It seems he had better things to do with his time than baby-sit phone bills for a bunch of high-powered, big-city engineers.

The retirement left four Sr. VPs to figure out where the firm might be going. Lewis and Clark wanted to press forward. Tweedledee and Tweedledum were afraid of the Jaberwocky.

The maverick had no use for management drama. He continued with his usual routine. He’d go to work for at least 2 hours a day and stay when they needed his process piping. expertise. (Can you say viscous thixotropicity?) Otherwise he would log off and take time without pay. The man didn’t like to be bored. He had a pocket of patents that he bore the firm’s name; so no one questioned his hours or his logic.

To me it made total sense. Why go to work if there’s nothing to do?

In a few months, however, everything changed. My husband’s friend, a Sr. VP decided to start his own business. It appeared a “best of both worlds” opportunity, so Maverick Man went along with him. There were four close collaborators involved. I knew they were friends because they teased Maverick about two kids and a dog. As in any drama there was also the villain, Snydley Beancounter.

Mr. Beancounter had no creativity. His forté was rules, regulations, and policy. For a while, life was fine. Bean stayed out of the way. Then he started acting like he owned the place. I believe that he probably did have some money involved, because the friend who started this venture was beginning to agree with the ruling policymaker.

The details of the story aren't interesting. Who hasn’t seen a movie villain try to break a wild horse? One little exchange does stand out.

I remember that afternoon photographically. I was driving the red Bonneville that had been my mother’s. It was one of the perfect blue sky fall days that makes you fall in love with life again. We were headed south on Clark Street where those lovely brick brownstones are.

Maverick, sitting shotgun and gunning for bear, had turned to face me and was gesturing with his hands as he spoke. He was venting his latest frustration. Rules were getting in the way of getting the work done. He had tried to explain that to Snydley. Obviously the guy was a jerk and an idiot beyond that.

I drove slowly and listened.

We were about two blocks from that corner where Lincoln, Sheridan, and Clark come together, just west of the park. I was driving maybe 10 miles an hour. That’s when my husband reached the peak of his argument, his final remarks defending his creative habits. Without hearing himself, he said loudly and clearly,

“If you want perfection, you’ve got to expect a few flaws.”

I pressed my foot the brake, stopping the car in the middle of the street. I tilted my head to look at him. I had a question.

“Can I make a poster of that?”

It makes perfect sense to me.
—me strauss Letting me be


Fancy said...

You are a very brave woman, Liz. Taming the tiger in all of us is no mean feat. And perfection is unattainable.

Jennifer said...

That's interesting. I like that take on perfection...since (in my mind) perfection never truly exists...it's a great way of saying okay here's how you can obtain perfection: through the mistakes :)

ME Strauss said...

Hi Fancy,
I'm not sure I know what you mean by taming tigers, but I know he meant that he couldn't be perfect at everything.

I never made a poster.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Jennifer,
Yeah, it should be some sort of sentence oxymoron, but it's not. I've said a couple of my own in the past, but they're not as funny when I tell them.


Eric Mutta said...

A metaphycisist may argue that the reason we can't attain perfection, is that no one's ever found it before and so no one knows even what to look for!

ME Strauss said...

Hi Eric,
Now the metaphysicist doesn't have to, because you just argued it for him. :)

I don't think I'd like a perfect person or a perfect thing. It's the little flaws that make things interesting. :)


Garnet said...

You've hit the nail on the head here.

When I think of perfection I think of Ideals, Platonic Ideals, which are unattainable goals, but something to strive for. Too many people confuse that idea. It's sad really, when someone chases shadows of perfection.

Behind every musical performance of mine is the desire to be perfect. I often fall into the trap I describe above, and have to remind myslef that it's a noble goal, not a destination.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Garnet,
What a great way to put it:
*A noble goal not a destination.*

I know there is no such thing as the perfect book because the definition changes for each reader.

So I tend to look for better than my last was, always getting better.

easywriter said...

I like Garnet's idea of perfection not being a destination, but a goal.

Perfection can't be pinned down my idea of perfection may not be someone elses.

Then again maybe everything is perfect:

Perfectly awful
perfectly wonderful
perfectly wrought
perfectly sung
perfectly written

ME Strauss said...

Hi Easy,
Thank you for bring such a gift to the discussion. It's lovely.

Perfection means so many things.
You made it sound light and not nearly obsessive.


Eric Mutta said...

Liz:>Now the metaphysicist doesn't have to, because you just argued it for him. :)


Another way to look at perfection is in a mathematical way: for any given problem P, with requirements A, B and C, the solution S is perfect if and only if S provably satisfies all of P's requirements. Furthermore, S is imperfect if it meets neither, or only some of the P's requirements.

The interesting thing about the mathametical formulation is that it doesn't matter if the requirements are "wrong" or "not what the person meant", so long as they are all met then the solution is considered perfect.

ME Strauss said...

So Eric,
Thanks for adding another contribtuion that stretches the discussion.

You've share what you know metaphysically and now again mathematically. Do we get to hear what you think personally after this? :)


Eric Mutta said...

Liz:>You've share what you know metaphysically and now again mathematically. Do we get to hear what you think personally after this? :)

LOL, I can't disappoint :) Personally, perfection for me is a way of life, as I am a perfectionist by nature.

I spend a lot of time analysing my writing, watching people's responses to it and fine tuning my technique.

For the sake of sanity, I've defined for myself what it means for something to be perfect, so that I can know where the cut-off point for a particular endeavour is (otherwise I'd never get anything completed!).

ME Strauss said...

Hi Eric,
That's a good choice I think--to define for yourself where perfection lies, to find a cut off point. There's wisdom in that choice Eric. We should all do that, I think.