Why we don’t have nice things

The creation of worthwhile work is a duet. The creator has to do her part, but so does the customer.

One of the best airport restaurants I’ve ever encountered breaks my first rule of airport eating. The sushi bar at gate 34 of Narita airport is a special place (though I wish they didn’t serve tuna).

The rice is extraordinary. The nori is crisp. The service is efficient but friendly. They have wonderful vegan rolls, flavorful shiso, and yes, it’s hard to believe but true: real wasabi, grated to order. My guess is that the very best sushi restaurant in your town doesn’t serve real wasabi. But I digress.

When I was there a few months ago, I apologized to the entire staff. I apologized to them on behalf of every traveler (many, if not most, from my country) that was dredging this extraordinary product in soy sauce, bathing it from top to bottom in the style created to mask the flavor of generations-worth of mediocre, lazily-created sushi. The Japanese equivalent of putting ketchup on your food in a fine restaurant.

I could only imagine how much it hurt for the caring artisans to watch their creation get wrecked by diners too oblivious to see what had been created for them.

And one day, I’m guessing, a new layer of management will wonder why they even bother. So they’ll cut a few corners and few will notice. The race to the bottom.

Every once in awhile, someone steps up and makes something better. Much better. When it happens, it’s up to us to stand up and notice it. Which means buying it and consuming it with the very same care that it was created with.

Movies, writing, sushi, safety ladders, high-powered magnets, saxophones… it doesn’t matter. Every creator that desires to fly higher needs an audience willing to cheer them on and go for the ride as well. That’s our part of the deal.