December 22, 2006

Taking time to do things right

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I passed by a shoeshine guy yesterday and finally got a chance to get my beat-up work shoes a makeover. As I sat down and chatted with him, he started rambling on about how his fee (HK$ 25) is so much cheaper compared to the group of shoeshine guys in Central (behind Shanghai Tang in Pedder Building)...he kept talking about the quality of his work compared to the Central guys, how they rush the job...etc, and how his skills in shoeshining will be lost as no one wants to learn it.

As I sat there listening to him, I watched him slowly work over my beat-up shoes with fascination. It has been a long time since anyone has taken so much care over these or any of my shoes. He worked on them very slowly, taking his time and doing one step at a time, almost caressing them lovingly like a parent to a child. I was actually quite moved.

In today's fast-paced society, especially in the business district of downtown HK where time literally is money, someone is still doing things the old-fashioned way just to get it right instead of getting things done quickly. He spoke of loyal clients who bring their shoes to him personally instead of sending an errand boy, as doing it otherwise would rob them of the enjoyment of caring for their shoes and seeing them sparkle after a good shoeshine session. He's right, you know. It IS an enjoyment to see your shoes treated with so much care.

When he was done after more than 10 minutes later, my shoes had a shine that they had never seen, not even when they were purchased new more than a year ago. He told me that if I was careful, the shine would last for 2 weeks. I do not doubt him. I happily paid him $40 for his work, and will be visiting him regularly in the future to give all my shoes the same makeover.

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