Until recently I thought that only in England could one find a plumber whose response to an emergency call took so long that a leaky sink repaired itself. But since returning to the United States, after a year abroad, I have sensed a remarkable deterioration taking place in the world of work right here at home.

The gas company promptly turned on our kitchen burners. But after Saturday supper supposedly had been roasting for several hours, my fair and furious lady discovered that the oven hadn’t been connected.

The telephone crew installed our phones on schedule. But it took seventy-eight hours before the units worked well enough to get through even to the operator. No phones in the world have ever buzzed a busy signal for a longer period of inaction.

Carpenters showed up on time to install additional bookshelves in my seminary office. But it never occurred to the workmen—while buzz saws showered sawdust with gay abandon—to cover valuable research papers and several thousand books.

Fading from the workaday world, it would seem, are the factors of competence and service. Many workers are more concerned with higher wages and hurried completion of a job than with thoroughness and guaranteed performance.

I often remember a quite different experience in Sorrento, Italy, a city famous the world over for wood inlay craftsmanship. I ordered a small picture made of various woods, and the artisan promised its completion at a certain hour on a certain day. When I arrived as scheduled, he begged profuse forgiveness: he was finished with the job, yes, but was not completely satisfied with the results. Could he not take more time? So I watched as, by turns, he and his son gave themselves to polishing and repolishing, polishing and repolishing. ...

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