For restaurants in Mexico it’s often cheaper to have furniture and fixtures made to order than to get them off the rack, as it were, and every time I buy something, there’s a ritual which must be obeyed. I explain what I want, and even if I’ve brought precise, clear diagrams, or I’m asking for something as simple as “a table exactly like that one, but twenty centimeters wider,” the person taking my order will stop what they’re doing and spend ten minutes drawing a diagram, usually with detailed perspective and elaborate shading, even if it’s something they have in their catalogue. At first I thought it was because people weren’t sure what I wanted, but I abandoned that idea when I took some elaborate, professionally made blueprints to a carpenter. He looked at my plans for a while, annotated a couple of things, and then, apparently not satisfied, redrew the whole thing over the top of the existing plans, essentially tracing the lines, but with more shading. My blueprints were obliterated. Only then were we able to talk about price.
I think part of the point is for people to imprint on their minds what they’re going to make in the same way that one repeats directions back to a stranger, mentally walking the route in the process. Still, you don’t do that when someone has given you a map. I suspect the main reason people do it is just because they like to draw. The other day I went to order an extractor hood from a very grumpy man who has basically been making the same metal box in different sizes for twenty years. I told him the dimensions while pointing at a floor model, and out came his pen. For the next ten minutes he was serene, as he drew something (pictured here) that he must have drawn a thousand times. Then he drew the floor and ceiling of my kitchen, which mystified me, but seemed to make him happy.
Photo: Courtesy of Hamish Anderson