Out of Left Field: Falling Light Bulbs and the Relentless Pursuit of Perfection

I planned the perfect birthday lunch. I picked the perfect restaurant. I ordered the perfect lunch salad. I sat in the perfect seat, enabling a prime view of my meal being delivered. My meal was delivered perfectly on time. Sadly, I quickly realized the kitchen failed to put ranch dressing on the side as I specifically requested. I bit into a crispy chicken tender to discover it was neither crispy, nor tender. The lettuce was brown and wilted. There were only three croutons. As I picked through the sorry excuse for a salad, a light bulb spontaneously dislodged from its fixture and crashed to the floor, narrowly missing my head by a few inches. (I didn’t know this was a possibility either.)

Now I had one more thing to worry about in life: falling light bulbs. I was already conscious about anvils and grand pianos being dropped onto my head, based on my extensive cartoon viewing background. The bizarre experience helped preserve my streak of 40-something consecutive non-perfect birthdays in a row.

We build up in our minds the “perfect” thing. When perfect doesn’t happen, we feel let down. We’re disappointed our senior prom wasn’t as perfect as we dreamed it up to be. Our expectations fall short because we didn’t have the perfect tux. Or the DJ didn’t play the perfect song. Or we didn’t have a date. (Not me — a guy I knew...)

Waiting for perfect can get in our way of being satisfied with what we actually have right in front of us. If you are waiting for the perfect experience, I’ve got news for you: perfect exists.

I bet you thought I was going to tell you there is no such thing as perfect! Well, think again! There’s certainly a time and place for encouraging you to be happy with what you have and content with where you are in life. This article is neither that time nor place.

Perfect is out there. But in almost all cases, perfect is not attainable. Fear not, the pursuit of perfection is an inherent pursuit of better. Perfect may be a million miles away, but better is right around the corner. After you achieve better, another better is around another corner. The number of betters never runs out.

The number of corners are infinite. Failure to reach perfection is natural and expected. That failure can leave a nagging feeling of dissatisfaction in your soul. Glorious dissatisfaction. Being unsatisfied drives us to improve. We use that drive to become faster, stronger, smarter and more efficient.

The history of the folding lawn chair illustrates this elusive drive toward perfection. The early tri-fold sunbathing chairs were a marvel of innovation. Customizable angles allowed for 387 million lounging possibilities — none of which were comfortable enough to stay in for more than 30 seconds at a time. While the chair was unattended in the sun, the vinyl strips would bake to a thousand degrees, ensuring it seared perfect grill marks into bare skin like a restaurant-quality pork chop. Folding the chair for storage was a first-class safety risk, mangling hands as if you retrieved a porcupine from a running garbage disposal. Thankfully, the lawn chair industry was not satisfied with status quo. Their pursuit of perfection has led to countless improvements over the years. Because of this chase, we have been bestowed the remarkable folding bag chair, revolutionizing the world of kid’s soccer spectatorship. Today’s “zero gravity” loungers defy the laws of physics, applying an ergonomic comfort the world has never experienced. Plus, it has a cup holder, and comes in camouflage. Some would say we have reached the pinnacle of outdoor sitting. But is the lawn chair now perfect? Does it mow my lawn? Does it file my taxes? Does it get 18 year-old me a date to the prom? (I mean NOT me; that guy I knew.)

No. So perfect is still out there, and unsatisfied we shall be. That seemingly futile quest for perfection is exactly the mission we need to make our world a better place.

How does this apply to a pursuit of the perfect birthday meal? It doesn’t really, but this seemed to be the best opportunity to tell the story of the time I almost got hit in the head with a light bulb.






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