My employer called me "anal" again yesterday for my thorough and detailed bike assembly procedures. At least he didn't blow up angrily about it the way he has.
"You have a sign on the wall over there that says, 'It's ready when it's right," he said. "But I've seen everyone here make mistakes. Everyone." He repeated "everyone" slowly and deliberately, looking at me. For some reason my normal human lack of perfection is supposed to undermine my suggestion that we aim for a high standard of accuracy in our work. That is always his counter-argument, as if only a perfect being is worthy to instruct him or anyone else in our organization.
ANYONE CAN DO WHAT I DO. THIS IS NOT ABOUT ME BEING BETTER THAN ANYONE, IT'S ABOUT EVERYONE AIMING FOR A HIGH STANDARD. At least when you miss aiming high your shortfall stands a chance of being better than average. It's only bike mechanics, not anything that hard to master. Why not do it well?
In 2005 I gave up on reforming the organization, but I did not give up on myself or the customers for whom I work. Within limits defined by each situation, such as a customer's budget or desire to have things done really well, I do my best to provide good service.
When I assemble a bicycle I start a the back and work my way to the front, disassembling a lot so I can be sure it is really adjusted as well as its original quality allows. This is NOT the official policy of the shop, because the management feels that certain aspects of the factory assembly are good enough. They believe that the customers don't deserve the best we know how to do, only something that will "probably be good enough."
Let me stress that a thorough assembly barely takes longer than a careless one. Once you accept that you WILL do all the procedures involved in a thorough assembly, you are free to GET ON WITH THEM.
A thoroughly assembled bike takes seconds to prepare for a test ride and a few minutes to prepare for final delivery. It is far less likely to boomerang back within a few days of the sale because something went wrong with it. This assumes the customer actually rides it. Because many customers don't pursue an active cycling program right after purchasing the bike, many slipshod assembles can wander the Earth for years before they show any symptoms. That fact alone excuses a more casual approach.
When I first started this job as a temporary thing to tide me over until unspecified better things came along, I didn't care much about it. A few years into it, though, I saw the value of craftsmanship in self defense, if nothing else. I also see it as a way to make the world a more trustworthy place. I'll do my best. You, please, do yours.
Cynics will say it is pointless and hopeless. On many days I agree with them. But then, I suffer from depression. I try not to let that affect my work. However darkly I might view the general situation, I can't let myself take it out on specific people. The worst aspects of humanity are evolutionary qualities. I don't know if we can talk ourselves out of them or if we simply have to wait and see if we develop beyond them. I try to enjoy the simple things in life and hope I don't encounter any of the ugly people. I feel sorry for those who get caught up in our ugly exercises near and far.
Meanwhile I hunker in the greasy chaos and do the best job I can. No one has yet given me a good reason to do otherwise.