Sign & Digital Graphics

November '19

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8 • November 2019 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S The Old Man and the Sea… of Change Rick Williams owns Rick's Sign Company, a commercial sign shop in Longview, Texas. He has been in the sign industry since 1973 and documenting the sign business since 1986. Contact him at B Y R I C K W I L L I A M S In the Trenches "I 'm not a workaholic," I have insisted to Sharon on numerous occasions, and my proof of that declaration is that true workaholics can't, at a given moment, leave it all behind. Unlike them, I have that ability and look forward to any opportunity I get to exercise it. Which is what I did recently, when I took my best girl on a trip to the beautiful Oregon Coast to celebrate the milestone of our 45 th wedding anniversary. I never called the shop once, sent and received but one text from the crew, and generally didn't give our commercial sign company a serious thought the whole time we were gone. Yeah, yeah, it was only five days, but they were a very special five days, that's for sure. Rick's Sign Co. is also on its 45 th official year, and from the beginning to now, running the shop is very much a full- time job. Of course, preparing to leave for any vacation means working twice as hard dealing with all the deadlines in advance and making sure things are in good shape to keep our small crew working while I'm away. Yes, when I walk out the door the concerns at the shop truly go out of my mind, but I'm not saying it's easy to get to the point of leaving. My workdays were from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. at least six days a week for a couple of weeks ahead of our trip. Actual retirement, for this old signmaker, is still a bit into the future, but when visiting a great vacation area along any coast, you're likely to run into quite a few retirees, which we certainly did. I enjoyed talking to each of them, and wished I'd had more time to hear of their travels and experiences. One retiree, a recent transplant to Newport, Oregon, has stuck in my mind more than the rest. While taking a few photos along the coast, I walked up from behind where he was sitting on a park bench near the beach. I casually snapped a picture, and then moved past him to get a shot or two of the evening sunlight reflecting off the white capped waves. A friendly conversation started up, and we talked in English but with equally heavy accents, mine from Texas and his from Poland. From the way he spoke, I knew he did not grow up in this country (from the way I spoke, he knew I didn't grow up in Oregon). Assuming he might still have strong ties to his homeland, I asked him how Poland was doing these days. "Oh, I think Poland's doing okay, considering it's digging out from 50 years of neglect," George said. "You mean the neglect that comes from living 50 years under Soviet-style socialism?, I asked." "Exactly!" George responded. "That can't be good," I said, and George nodded. "But, I've read that there are people in this country who are contributing good money to the campaigns of politicians who would take America down the road to socialism as fast as they possibly can." "Oh, yes. And there are a lot of them right here in this state," George agreed. "And I know exactly why they do it." He paused, and I waited for his explanation. "They do it because under socialism everything's going to be free." But his hardened expression conveyed his disbelief. Our conversation seemed to ruin his ability to relax. Shortly my new friend was on his bike and about to go on his way. But just before leaving, he turned and said, "Oh, there is one more reason they do it…" He hesitated again, and I waited. "…it's because… they're absolutely nuts." Now rarely do these "Trenches" stories stray into the realm of the political, nor do my vacation conversations for that matter. But all I did was ask him how things were going back in Poland. The rest I got for free. So it was for two old men, the Texan and the Pole, who met on a beach far from our actual homes, and found we shared a similar and long held understanding that very little in life, except our opinions, is actually free. I just hope that our opinions, and the expression of them, stay free for a long time to come.

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