“Is everything just perfect?” asked the waitress as she breezed by. My husband nodded his congenial assent and mumbled something with his mouth full. I was still processing when the server left. I am processing still.
Lately, this expression has been making the rounds as wait staff moves from one location to another or perhaps because of something in the media. Waiters used to ask if everything was okay or say, “How is your meal?” Now it seems as if they all want my assent to perfection. They’re not likely to get it.
I looked down at my plate, then up at my husband. “It’s good,” I said, “but it’s not perfect.”
Perhaps I grew up with a misconception of the definition of perfect.** I thought it meant absolutely flawless. When someone asks for perfection, I look for the flaws.
A perfectly smooth lawn has no dandelions in it and was recently trimmed with a newly sharpened blade. A perfect car finish has no scratches, dents or bumps and reflects light at every angle. If there is even one flaw, it is now only almost perfect to me.
Being a reader of the King James Bible, I can also apply the archaic meaning of “mature.” We are admonished to behave in a perfect way, as in “act your age” or don’t quibble like children. A perfect Christian is not without flaw but his behavior is without reproach. He is mature. I don’t want a mature meal.
On this earth, I’m not sure if anything is absolutely perfect. Even a perfect diamond has flaws, albeit invisible without magnification.
If I’m trying to create perfection, I do the best I can and then look for defects, mistakes, omissions. If I’m writing, I look for superfluous words that distract from the point and things that could be misunderstood. If I’m creating something of utmost import, I may go back through it multiple times, clarifying and cutting and revising. It is never perfect.
The waitress’s query was intended as an invitation to ask for adjustments: condiments, refills and the like. I took it as an opportunity for critique. Though I didn’t say, I made mental note the sauce was a tad saltier than needed and the napkins were not good quality. Not that I’m especially picky, but she did ask if it was perfect.