John Grindrod: Unattainable perfection often stops at sidewalk’s end

If you’ve ever wondered just how many of us there are who participate in the affairs of the living at any moment in time, there’s actually a website,, which provides a ticker with a rolling count. There are 8,111,304,849 of us, although those last three digits bounce up and down constantly, depending on who’s winning the ongoing competition between joyous birth and sorrowful death.

Now, don’t ask me how on earth a meter can gather and present such data with any precision on a rolling ticker. I wouldn’t know that any more than that other ticker that can be found on the web that tracks our nation’s staggering national debt.

So, among those over eight billion of us inhaling and exhaling, it stands to reason that are many different personality types, from the introverted to the extroverted, from the judgmental to the compassionate and from the analytical to the unmethodical.

But of all the personality types out there, the one that’s always fascinated me the most is the obsessive when it comes to striving for perfection. I think about that personality type every time my Lady Jane and I decide to get some steps in around my west-end neighborhoods. On these walks, I’ll typically pay pretty close attention to the condition of the sidewalks. Some years ago, someone in code enforcement took a stroll around my Fourth Ward neighborhood inspecting the cross sidewalks.

I erroneously assumed that since I’m not the one who put in the sidewalk that runs across the front of my house, should there ever be an issue with deterioration, the city would pick up the tab. Mr. Inspector had an issue with some squares that had a few cracks and presented me with two options: Either I find a cement guy to replace the compromised squares myself or have the city do it and then wait by the mailbox for the bill I’d get.

I felt the best option was to choose the known quantity, so I sought my own estimates and awarded the job. It turns out there were seven squares deemed unacceptable (although I felt none of them were all that bad, especially since none of the squares were raised by tree roots and those few small cracks surely didn’t present any safety issue). Twelve hundred bucks later, after paying Crites Excavating and Concrete, I was in compliance.

Of course, during my walks I’m irked by the fact that those who live just one block farther to the west reside in American Township, where there is no one who apparently has any concerns over the condition of sidewalk squares. I say that because I routinely see squares that have over time been reduced to rubble, others raised dangerously by tree roots and others with far, far more than my $1,200 fissures.

During those walks is when I think about perfection as I take notice of the periodic homeowners who take great pride in their cement. With those who I would classify as property perfectionists, Lady Jane will also take note, as she is a great lover of perfect cement.

Now, if the perfectionist who wrote that sizable check to upgrade all his or her concrete looks only at his little corner of the world, then all is well. However, I’ll frequently see badly degraded cement squares beginning just one square before and one square beyond what he or she has paid to make perfect.

In doing some research, I read several articles on perfectionists and perfectionism and found one in particular to be very enlightening, written for the Washington Post by clinical psychologist Tracy Dennis-Tiwary, who describes herself as a recovering perfectionist. She spent time discussing in some depth the harsh self-criticism that perfectionists often level upon themselves and their fool’s mission of chasing perfection.

Dennis-Tiwary wrote that women are particularly susceptible to embarking on that foolish mission because they often strive to be “Little Miss Perfect.” The author stresses that high standards can be maintained without the stress of achieving the ultimate and offers ways to avoid beating oneself up when everything isn’t precise.

As for me, well, I’ve often led the league in mistakes in my life and have settled often for “as good as it gets” so no worries for this guy. After all, a little stroll around my residential blocks that surround my abode proves that, for all of us, a perfectly poured sidewalk always comes to an end.

John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at [email protected].