Just So

I had brunch with Graybeard the other day, at a place popular with Americans. They serve big American breakfasts on the weekends, and that is always a Good Thing. Mmmm… Big Brain Scramble!

After we ordered the waitress brought us our utensils and napkins. Exactly two napkins. Graybeard, as you might guess, has a long, gray beard, and he likes extra napkins to keep it clean. He made a comment about how cheap the Czechs are, only bringing one napkin per person, but on reflection I think he’s missing something about Czech culture.

The czechs as a group are craftsmen. Do not confuse this with industrious or efficient, but in the little daily tasks most czechs I know like things to be just so. Rather than provide some napkins, the waitress will carefully count out the correct number. Not out of cheapness, but out of rightness.

I doubt this attitude would carry over to a repetitious task like working in a manufacturing plant. There’s little opportunity for craftsmanship there, and other czech habits, like drinking beer with breakfast, would probably reduce productivity. Where I would hire a czech would be for something that required skill and patience, but the deadlines could be a little looser. Perhaps manufacturing high-end musical instruments, or glass blowing.

10 thoughts on “Just So

  1. Speaking of national attitudes toward work and what you’d hire Czechs for, who would you hire as software programmers? Haven’t heard anything from you on the commercial software front in ages.

  2. Both of which tasks the Czechs excel at.

    One book I’ve been dying to read is the one Vaclav Havel wrote about his experiences working in a brewery under Communist rule. Czech craftsmanship runs into Communist bureaucracy. I’m told the result is hilarious, in a Catch-22 sort of way. Unfortunately, according to Amazon.com, the book is long out-of-print, so I may have a hunt ahead of me, or I might engage the services of the premium used-book dealer in TorC.

  3. Ironically, I think American schools, with their much-maligned touchy-feely attitude and low test scores, actually do a very good job teaching harder-to-measure skills, like problem solving and creativity, and those skills are important in programming.

  4. The Kraslice/Grazlitz region of the Czech republic was historically a real hot-bed of brass instrument production, and Amati Denak still operates there, but Czech brasswinds are not particularly well regarded.

    There is an outfit in the Moravian region, called Josef Lidl, that makes an intriguing looking rotory-valve pocket trumpet. Feel like a road trip, Jer?

  5. I keep meaning to get a picture of the battered old rotary-valve trombone hanging on the wall at Roma. I’ve got my camera with me today; maybe I’ll pop by for a while today.

  6. The whole reason I hang at this blog is intriguing turn of phrase. “Historically a real hot-bed of brass instrument production” is my current favorite.

    John, I’ve got a trumpet player and now a budding trombonist in the Sherwood brass section.

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