December '20

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IN THE TRENCHES R I C K W I L L I A M S 1 0 G R A P H I C S P R O D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 0 G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M A s I lay on my back in their park- ing lot, the shop supervisor rushed out and stood over me. He said, "Young man, tonight you should either go to church, or go get drunk, because you're danged lucky to be alive!" I didn't feel very lucky; in fact, I was still trying to feel much of anything. The elec- tric shock had left all my muscles shaky and my mind in a fog. But he let me rest an- other minute or two and then helped me to my feet. What I slowly remembered was me holding the old solid metal drill in my right hand, while I steadied myself by stiff-arming the wall with my left hand, through which the current found a good ground when I squeezed the switch to "on." The electricity went from my right hand, through my chest, down my left arm, and into the metal siding through the palm of my hand. I heard a loud and involuntary moan, and at first didn't realize it was mine. I felt I was frozen stuck to that wall, but after a few debilitating seconds, I did manage to kick the wall hard enough to knock myself away. I landed flat on my back on the asphalt, almost unconscious. Talk about a good deed taking a wrong turn. My dad's friend, George Hall, had of- fered his barely used shop to be home base for my little freelance sign business for the winter and spring while I finished up at a local two year college. And he told me I could use any tool he had in there. That day I borrowed an old metal drill I'd found collecting dust, and had just found out why it wasn't being used. It had an in- ternal short which could, under the right conditions, compete with "Old Sparky," Texas' original electric chair, in dispatching the unrighteous to their eternal reward. I had been pretty close to meeting mine at the ripe old age of 19 and a half. These days, if you even had a corded electric drill, they are all double-insulated, which means when you squeeze the trigger, you're touching no metal at all and you're at no risk of being electrocuted, but, in real- ity, who uses corded drills anymore? Today nearly all of them are cordless and run on batteries… a tremendous and momentous improvement! But my tiny sign shop started in 1974, and back then batteries didn't run much of anything. I carried plenty of extension cords on the truck, because you never knew how far you would have to go to plug into power. Today I hardly use an extension cord and carry only one on the truck because it would only have to reach my generator anyway. Cordless tools have made all our lives so much easier, at least the life of anyone who works in the field with their own two hands. That still includes me, and I have a cordless version of just about every power tool you can think of, from screw guns to reciprocat- ing saws, and everything in between. But I still remember the first battery-pow- ered wonder I ever bought, and it wasn't a drill. It was a cordless phone, which worked great as long as it wasn't far from the base unit at my desk. How wonderful to move around and have the phone right with me! Unfortunately, that untethered phone found its way to its eternal reward when I left it on the bumper of a client's truck I was hand lettering, and it disappeared into the sunset never to be heard from again. Well, there have been a lot of sunsets since those days, and things have changed a lot. Advances in battery technology, and what can be done with it, is near the top of my list of important improvements to the sign business, a notoriously in- efficient business made a bit more ef- ficient by the much better tools we have at our disposal. Today's tools have no ability to fry you on the spot but can certainly help get the job done on time and at a profit, which is what I'm still trying to do even after all these years. And I take none of this for granted, and certainly not the fact that I'm still here, working with the same two hands and on my same two feet, when my sign business and me with it could have ended back in 1974, when I was still young and good looking, and had no clue what the future would bring. Well, I'm still pretty clueless, and the fu- ture is a whole lot shorter, but there's no complaints from this sign man's corner. I'm having a good month, and I certainly hope you do too. 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 CORDLESS BLISS

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