June '20

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IN THE TRENCHES R I C K W I L L I A M S 1 2 G R A P H I C S P R O J U N E 2 0 2 0 G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M T hough this is my first column for GRAPHICS PRO magazine, I actually have been writing these In the Trenches columns for about 35 years, since the first issue of what was then called Sign Business magazine back in 1986. My name is Rick Williams, and I started in the sign and graphics business right out of high school, opened my own shop dur- ing my second year of college, and have operated a small commercial sign shop in the northeast Texas city of Longview ever since. These Trenches columns have been about the life and times of a sign business owner, the challenges and the rewards, and the plain old good, bad, and ugly. And these stories can be about anything. But there will always be a connection to what we do, perhaps even to what you also do, and for sure to what's been putting bread on our table all these years. The story I'd like to share here hap- pened around 1970, right after I got my driver's license. My trusting dad (or more likely my desperate dad) sent me, his oldest son, to the other side of town to retrieve a part needed to repair a car sit- ting in his auto repair shop. Someone else had taken the old shop truck, so he gave me the keys to our fam- ily car, a lightly used 1965 Sedan de Ville Cadillac, the nicest car we ever owned… and by far the biggest. It was also the most powerful with a 472 cu. in. four bar- rel V-8 under the hood that looked like it would fit an army tank. Oh, did that car have some power! Why that power was trusted to a 16-year- old inexperienced kid we'll never know, but what I do know is a block before reach- ing my destination, I saw the light turn yellow and then red and I moved my right foot from accelerator to brake, intending to slow to a stop. And I nearly did stop when my wide size 11 foot found the brake and the accelerator at the same time, and that mighty V-8 roared to life. Shocked and terrified, I stomped down harder, producing a screaming amount of power, and the contest became one between those new disk brakes up front, and the rear drive wheels that were turn- ing and smoking because those 400 horses easily overpowered the old drum brakes back there. The car lurched dangerously forward, almost into the oncoming traffic, with me pressing the brake and the accelerator with all the force I had. Through the smoke, the noise, and the confusion, just before I lost my mind, I managed a single coherent thought, and reached down and turned the ignition key off. Suddenly, everything was quiet. Every- one within a block and a half was looking at me and trying to figure out what they'd been watching; a remarkable intersec- tion of raw Cadillac horsepower and 175 pounds of pure stupidity. For a moment I considered the damage I might have done to my dad's beautiful car, and hesitated cranking it up and finding out. Was the transmission still in one piece? What about the brakes, not to mention the drive shaft I nearly twisted off? And inside that beautiful engine itself, would anything be bent or stressed beyond its limits? Mercifully the recovery was instant, and the roaring lion became a purring kitten again, my big foot having learned a lesson it has yet to forget (thank goodness!). The car was undamaged and unperturbed. Most importantly, my dad was uninformed, and I sure planned to keep it that way. Why this story now? Because in recent weeks (at the time of writing this article), scared by what could happen, America's big and powerful economy was ground to a screeching halt, a painful and unex- pected shutdown. And by the time you read this, the effort will be on to crank it up again. But no one knows how that is going to go and how much dam- age has already been done. Time, of course, will tell the tale, but I'm fairly sure it won't be a funny one. If we are truly fortunate, the Amer- ican economy will restart and begin slowly to hum again. At some point we will quit shuddering in place and try to get things back to normal, and hopefully not a new normal. I want just plain old normal and pray that's really possible. And I hope that you and your business can restart, and you find there's new life after all this danger and insanity. So, have a great month… or at least start the pro- cess to have one sometime, and then have a lot more after that. —Rick RICK WILLIAMS owns Rick's Sign Company, a com- mercial sign shop in Longview, Texas. He has been in the sign industry since 1973 and has been a contributing editor to Sign Business and Sign & Digital Graphics since 1986. Contact Rick via email at RARING TO STOP

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