Wednesday, April 12, 1989
The decorator wants me to install a switch and 3 downlights in the Cantor's living room. The attic is difficult: stuffy, cramped, hot. I have to lie in dusty insulation, stretch out my arms to a spot I can't even see, and make wire connections by touch. It's amazing what you can do based solely on the feedback of your fingertips.
When at last - ta da! - I turn on the switch, the light pattern is not what the decorator or the Cantor had expected.
The decorator frowns.
The Cantor looks embarrassed. He has an ornate old armoire of dark carved wood. Highlighted in the new light, it is suddenly obvious that the carvings are of naked women. Of course they were always there, but now they jump out at you. Their bodies - at least certain parts of their bodies - are polished as if someone has constantly rubbed them to a high sheen, glowing in the new light, while the rest of the wood remains dark, unrubbed.
"We'll install another light," the decorator says. "To - um - balance things a little better. I won't charge you for it." She looks at me meaningfully.
"I'll be happy to do it," I say. What I'm obviously expected to say - but don't - is: "No charge." Not if I have to crawl in that attic again. He isn't my cantor. Heck, I'm not even Jewish. And anyway, it's the oldest law of business. Some services you provide at a loss, some at normal cost, some at a premium. There's probably a great Yiddish phrase for this, but here it is in English: In the world of commerce, the more nookie, the more you pay.