Quality Or Not

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It was only a bagel.

Well, not a real bagel; it wasn’t a Montreal boiled bagel, or one of my favorites from Winnipeg’s City Bread, but it was what was available. It was one of those franchise bagels, one of the many baked items available 24/7, from the outlets that dot this country.

It was ‘bagel-like’. It did have a hole in the middle (not to be confused with the many styles of donuts offered) and it was soft in that chewy sort of way, flecked with sesame seeds, toasted lightly, and slathered in cream cheese. Often a bagel is my breakfast or lunch default; a convenient item to take away hunger pangs.

I will pop into one of the outlets on my way to the office. It is convenient. It satisfies. It will do. It is, however, a continual source of irritation as it is never done quite right.

I usually order on the fly, with big cup of take-out coffee. You have to wait, yes, but not too long before they hand you a crisply folded paper bag. While waiting you even have the opportunity to watch the employee with food-safe plastic-glove-covered hands spread portion controlled cream cheese onto the bagel halves, close the top, cut, and then fold up the envelope in the tried and tested method trained to each employee.

Sometimes I’ll eat at one of the tables on location, occasionally in the car, but most often back at the office where I unwrap the well-wrapped item and sit with my coffee.

There the frustration begins, for as much as each step in preparing the bagel is seemingly followed precisely to franchise quality standards, they never (well hardly ever) cut the bagel properly.

Yes, it is sliced down the middle, but the cut never goes deep enough. One edge, or one piece of one side of the bagel, remains affixed to the other side, so when you go to pick up the half you intend to eat, the other side comes with it.

Of course, then it gets messy as you take the other hand, the one you hadn’t intended on using — the one that is often brandishing a pencil or steadying the page of a book — and you have to use it to pull the item into two pieces. It never comes apart easily, often the top half will slide off or the cream cheese dabs a finger, and you need to pull harder with each hand and the bagel splits into three pieces. Or four.

It is no longer convenient, nor as appetizing, as you have to lick any stray cream cheese off each digit, or wipe it away with the conveniently provided napkin. What a waste.

Now, the knife used to cut the bagel has to be sharp enough, the other 7/8ths of the slice is near perfect. And the employee doing said slicing seemed to do it right; steadying the bagel with one glove-covered hand, assuming the firm ‘gotta-slice-this-correctly’ posture, and then committing to a full motion slice. But it never (well hardly ever) works.

It’s not until you sit down to eat that you realize the slicer was simply going through the motions, and the job is not complete. It’s not one particular employee that does this, for I have been to several locations, which leads me to believe it is a systemic company-wide issue. It’s like they are so busy getting on to the next order that they rush through all that needs to be done. In this case it does not get done, not completely. It’s like the goal of providing a quality product dies on the cutting table.

I know many of us multi-task, and we often have so many things on our plate at the same time, but I also know that if the tasks at hand are not done properly, there are always ramifications.

We can’t simply go through the motions and expect our inadequacies will go unnoticed. If something is important enough to do, it should be done right, or well . . . or not at all. It should be up to the expected standards, but mostly up to the standards expected of oneself.

It’s only right. It is about taking pride in what you do. Whether you are working in a donut shop, installing windows in a magnificent glass and steel condominium, producing copy for your website, or selling stocks and bonds to a valued client list, you’ve got to care more about what you produce. Doing something right, or just rushing through a task, is the difference between quality and inferiority. It is only right to do the best you can do with what you are doing.

There is a major difference between something done right, and leaving something almost done. It might be a case of not formatting something correctly, or leaving that last little bit for later and then never getting around to it. We all know what it is like to rush through something.

We all should slow down, just a bit. Sometimes you only have one chance to make it right. If not carried out properly, you will be remembered not for how good you were, but for how difficult you can be.

© 2016 j.g. lewis
“A person who sees Quality and feels it as he works is a person who cares. A person who cares about what he sees and does is a person who’s bound to have some characteristics of Quality”
                                                                                                                                                      ― Robert M. Pirsig
                                                                                                                                     Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

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