When I was very young, a man would come around the neighborhood with a grindstone on his back ringing a large bell. He would settle on a corner and sharpen knives and scissors for five cents each. Women, of course, were home, and would send their kids down to provide the man with their blades and payment. The man was bent and wiry and probably in his late 70s, about my age today. One week he never returned, and no one ever offered that service again.
Today, there’s a small tailor shop on Main Street here that has to be 40 years old (I’ve been here 35) run by a single tailor. The place is a mess, in that there are threads and samples and tools all over the place. He has to clear the counter to write out a receipt. But he’s quite busy, he’s one-of-a-kind.
I brought a jacket in the other day with a small rip on the lapel. Without even looking inside he said, “This is entirely hand made.” (It’s a Kiton, which is entirely hand made. Brioni, for example, an excellent brand, is only mostly hand made.) “And cashmere,” he said, feeling the material.
He examined the rip and the fabric, hunted around, sweeping things out of the way, to find the right color and size thread, a needle, thimble, and scissors, and started sewing a couple of inches away from the tear. (I thought he’d tell me to leave it with him, maybe get it back in a week.) Ten minutes later there was no defect visible at all. I watched him the entire time and still didn’t understand how he did that. No automation, no machines, just skill.
“There,” he said, as he finished.
“How much?” I asked.
“You pay me what you want to pay me,” he said.
I paid him handsomely, only partially for the repair job, but mostly for this disappearing experience of one-on-one personal, immediate service with “ancient” expertise. (Sewing originated around 4,000 BC.) One coming day he won’t be there, and no one will take his place. Of course, the same applies to me.
And to you.
Life is not AI, which is just another tool. Life is IA: Interpersonal Associations. Engage in them while you can.
Get cutting-edge tips, resources, and perspectives: