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If You’re Going To Do Something, Do It Right

My dad's motto was, "If you're going to do something, do it right." He had a thousand inspirational clichés, but that was the one that stuck with me the most.

"If you're painting the wall," he'd say, "don't miss a corner and call it good enough. No sir, if you're going to do something, do it right." He said the same thing about oil changes, making a sandwich, whatever. I don't think Dad took his main mantra to heart, though.

Why would anyone would want a door between the kitchen and the living room? Our house had an ordinary door there, with a doorknob and latch. It was inconvenient for carrying food from one room into the other; you'd need to leave the door open while you were cooking, or else put your food down and turn the knob to leave the kitchen.

When I was ten or twelve, dear old dad decided to replace that latching door with a double-swinging door, so from either direction we could rump-bump the door open. He bought the door and supplies, probably checked out a how-to book from the library, and spent a weekend with his drill and tools hanging that door. When he'd finished, we could carry a TV dinner into the TV room, without dealing with a doorknob.

But… the bottom of the door brushed against the living room carpet, just a little. Whenever anyone emerged from the kitchen, you could hear a very faint “whoosh.”

"If you're hanging a door," I often thought after that, "hang it right," but Dad hadn't. Maybe he was tuckered from all the work of installing it, and it just seemed like too much bother to fix such a tiny annoyance. Hey, I lived there too, and never tried to fix it. We all grew accustomed to that door whoosh-whooshing, as it slowly trimmed a triangle into the carpet.

Years later, after my father passed away, Mom moved into an apartment. She wanted to rent out the house, so she hired someone to re-carpet the place, and asked me to re-hang or replace that swinging door, so it wouldn't whoosh. It sounded like too much work, and I'm lazy, so I hesitated.

"Why don't I just take the door down?" I said. "Nobody needs a door there." Mom agreed, and taking it down only involved a few minutes with a screwdriver. We gave the door to Habitat for Humanity. Maybe it's whooshing the carpet in someone else's living room now, or maybe someone installed that door correctly.

Strangers now live in the house where I grew up, and they have unobstructed passage between the kitchen and the living room — no doorknob, no door, and no whoosh. That's the wisdom of my father, carried to the next generation: "If you're going to do something, do it right," he always said. I didn't want to do it right, and didn't want to do it at all, so I didn't do it. Thanks, Dad.

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