I was talking to a friend recently, the sort of floaty chatter that welcomes pretty much any topic in equal measure.
The tide turned toward what was going on with us, respectively, at work, and so of course I brought up the fact that for me, it’s awards season.
“Awards are arbitrary,” he said.
He said this with an unconcerned certainty that immediately, reflexively disconcerted me. I gave it a few seconds, then asked him how he figured that.
Again, with the same smooth aplomb: “How would any of the so-called winners have done against the same winners, say, 10 years ago? Maybe not as well. Maybe better.”
This did not seem like much of a justification, so I pressed him a bit further for an example. He waffled a bit, unable to come up with one; in fairness, he knows next to nothing about the road and bridge world, and so in that regard was at something of a disadvantage. The best he could give me was, “How often has something that wins an award not really deserved it?”
I again asked for some justification.
“Dances with Wolves,” he said, with a smile that would make any smart-alecky teenager chartreuse with envy.
I laughed awhile, as you might imagine. Then asked for an explanation. I knew where he was going with this, but didn’t want him to know I had instantly puzzled his logic out.
“The year Dances with Wolves won the Oscar, Goodfellas was nominated too, and lost. It’s like a benchmark of cinema at this point. The best Mafia movie ever made. Who watches Dances with Wolves anymore? I mean, it’s not even a meme or something like that.”
Smuggly, I replied, “The Godfather is the best Mafia movie ever made.”
“Sure it is,” he said. “If you say so. All I’m saying is stuff like this is completely immaterial to quality.”
I took the point, and we moved on to other things, no harm, no foul. Of course, our disagreement had no direct bearing on the remark that started it, for one simple reason: In his example there is an enormous amount of money at stake. Multimillion-dollar campaigns to secure those trophies. He was, in his example, correct: Quality has nothing to do with it. (Scorsese was robbed.)
As for my own situation, however,—which was the springboard for our disagreement—the only thing that has anything to do with it is quality.
In this issue, it will be your privilege, dear reader, to gain some insight into what we believe have been the best quality bridge projects to cross our collective editorial radar in the past year. Our criteria includes degree of challenge, quality of design and execution, the presentment of importance and community impact, environmental responsibility, stakeholder cooperation and engagement, safety improvements, and flat-out terrific-looking final work, among others.
We are indifferent in our determination to the identities of those responsible for this work, but are pleased and proud to now be able to name and recognize them.
Incidentally, when I asked how work was for him, he went on about reconfiguring servers for remote management. Such excitement, huh?