Sign & Digital Graphics

December '19

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8 • December 2019 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S Christmas Easter Egg 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 t was Christmastime, and in a few days our school would be empty, and our teachers and we would be home enjoying the holiday season away from lessons, tests and homework. Mrs. Surrey was determined to have our classroom clean and tidy before we departed, and she had each of us helping clean up, taking down handmade decorations and leaving her class neatly ready to start back up in January. Along the back wall of our classroom was a two-tiered row of lockers, which might have been assigned to each of us kids, but were basically just overflow storage. Mrs. Surrey instructed a couple of other boys and myself to clean them out, and to my surprise, I discovered an undamaged Easter egg, which must have been there all semester, and even through the previous un-airconditioned sum- mer, having been left by some careless student now in the fifth grade. I held it up and walked toward the front of the class bragging about what I'd found. At least that is what I was doing until I saw the look of absolute horror on Mrs. Surrey's face. "Ricky Williams, you take that thing out of this building and put it in the dumpster by the playground. Handle with care, as it will be more rotten than you can imagine," she exclaimed. And then, she made the most foolish mistake, and handed me the trash can that was always there beside her desk. It was a small trash can. It was a metal trash can. It was a small, metal, empty trash can, and holding the trash can in one hand and the egg in another, I took a couple of steps toward the door… then casually dropped the egg into the can. It was like a bomb had gone off! In an instant, my nose was in shock and my eyes began to water. My teacher fussed and may have even cussed, but the kids couldn't hear her as they were now screaming at the top of their lungs. With my head leaning out in front of the fumes, and holding the can as far behind me as my right hand would reach, I dashed out the door and down the long school hallway where at least half the doors to other classrooms were open. About the time I reached the exit door and shoved it open, there began a roar of cries and wailings that could still be heard even after the door had closed behind me, and I made my dash for the dumpster. Now a truly rotten egg is on the same level of the olfactory scale as a junkyard skunk in the summer time, and I learned that it was a smell to avoid at all costs if there was any way to do so. As my teacher already knew, there are some things that just really, really stink—and that's one of them. Since even before my years of schooling were over, I've enjoyed working in the commercial sign business and have made my living in it for decades. Still, if I were being honest, I would have to admit there are certain unavoidable aspects of this business that just really stink. Dealing with the city over sign permits or anything always stinks… anytime, any job, any city. If there's one thing I know for sure, if I retire and when I retire, I won't miss that aspect of the sign business one little bit. Working with truly worthless customer art is one of them, even though the client usually thinks he or she has sent something that could be blown up the size of Mount Rushmore. Realizing you gotta have $50,000 laying around somewhere if you're going to have $75,000 in accounts receivable, and not finding the 50 when you need it always stinks. And, after all these years, it's a pain to admit that there are about 500 different skills needed to accomplish everything a sign shop may be asked to do, and you're the only one at the shop who knows the 400 of them that don't come up every day… but still come up. The extra hours from being that guy can sometimes stink, too. But then, I digress. After all, it's Christmas, it's the holidays, and everyone should be of good cheer, counting their blessings, no griping allowed… especially by me. The many years since that Christmas Easter egg have all been blessings, and in reality, the sign business has been pretty good to me, too. So, I hope you have a special holiday season, a great month, and a wonderful new year. And, if there's a stinky surprise or two in the mix, well, I suppose that that just comes with the territory.

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