Today was a day full of mishaps and mistakes, and somehow, perhaps because they all happened in Kyoto, it was still beautiful. From nearly caught buses and trains, to poorly caught buses and trains, to wrongly caught buses and trains, to spending time by going to museums that are closed on Mondays, to walking through Imperial Palaces that require special permission to enter; at least the persistent rain kept the sun at bay.
The journey was fueled by a desire to fix a buzz in my cello. I went to Okuno-san's timeless shop of wood and windows and after tapping and plucking and gluing for about an hour-and-a-half, he found an open seam and asked me to return about 4 hours later. I didn't go into the Municipal Art Museum–perhaps if I had had my "Just for your information" that was given to me a month ago (and the impetus for this time-spending excursion) I would have recalled their hours–but I did walk several miles back through Kyoto and the green space outside the Imperial Palace, lamenting with some visiting British people about the very impervious nature of the walls surrounding it.
I returned to Okuno-san–after narrowly thwarting another bout of misinformation–and he gave me my cello to try. It was better but the buzz was still there. He took it back worked some more. Still there. He found another weakness in two seams and put some glue there. We waited an hour. Still there. A terribly frustrating thing to chase, like a phantom limb.
Okuno-san was very tired. It was over 8 hours since I had arrived that morning, but it seemed improved and he had put a lot into it. I said I'd play on it and if need be I would get in touch with him again. I asked him how much I could give him for his work that day and he said, "I could not find it. It is my profession and I could not find it. I'm sorry." I just stared at him. I think my mouth was hanging open in disbelief. "I'm completely willing to pay you for your time today," I said. He said, "Next time when you bring it, if I can find it, then you can pay me." I realized this was the answer. So I just stood there for a few seconds and then thanked him very much for all his work.
It seems more than a sense of pride. It is doing something that is right. He holds himself to a higher standard and wants a higher level of trust from those he serves. Perhaps it is a way of business he learned from his father who used to run the shop. I've come to trust Okuno-san, not just for this time but for previous times, that his incentive to be paid is complete success of his trade. I find it to be quite admirable, an example I'd like not to forget.