I lost a screw from my Gillo G1 riser bow weight, a rather small and uncommon mushroom head hex key screw that you will not find in your normal hardware shop. Our techie, Ex Machina was nice enough to try and find me some but they were too long. Hence, I anxiously searched the internet and found a local screw stockist called Pan Sun Hardware, located at Block 803 King George’s Avenue. This excursion to look for a tiny screw warrants a telling.
King George’s Avenue has an old world 1960s – 70s feel about it, a fast disappearing facet of post independence Singapore. I had brought my riser along to the shop and eyed one of the attendants behind the counter who just finished talking to another customer. After getting his attention, I unsleeved my riser and pointed to the screw that I needed….. with an economical “Do you have this?”. This guy nonchalantly asked me to remove the screw so that he could have a closer look. What happened after that is what I would call an amazing experience.
He held the screw head between his right hand thumb and index finger, then twirled the treaded end on his left thumb – eyes half closed with a distant and meditative look. I thought – “Oh my, he seems to be feel-measuring the screw without any tools… no calipers!” Quietly he asked, “Same length?” I nodded in the affirmative.
He put down the screw and walked into one of the rows of shelves at the back of the store, columns and columns of trays stacked neatly to the ceiling. There must be hundreds of small trays. He stopped near the front, reached out above his head and proceeded to pull out one of the trays, hesitating for a moment before removing it from the shelf. He brought the tray towards the counter and fingered the screws in there before picking one out to hand to me. “Try this”, he said. It looked right to me the moment he passed the object over and I popped it into the riser weight, giving it a few turns to lock with a tiny hex key. It fitted perfectly and looked indiscernible from the “original” screws.
I beamed at him and he was smiling too. “How many?” he asked. I only needed one but hell, “Eight”, I said and then “How much?” $3.20!” came the quick reply. I stood there silently for while, taking in what I had just seen this fellow do. “Why don’t I take 10 pieces then, easier for both of us.” A smile of acknowledgement then, “$4!”. He quietly packed 10 screws into a little plastic packet, stapled it securely before handing it to me. I paid, nodded and left….. reflecting. The transaction was over in less than 5 minutes.
I had just witnessed a Master of his Craft. No computer, no referencing of the catalogue, no checking of the stock level, no measuring instrument to check for or verify the size. Everything he did was carried out with economy, internalized and intuitive. He had everything mapped within his mind and perhaps his soul. What a marvelous tradesmen……….. now he reminds me of the mechanic who was described in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. A happy day, yet a sad day for me because such artists are rarely made and soon, perhaps never.