October '21

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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 O C T O B E R 2 0 2 1 G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M T hough it was a long time ago, I still re- member my surprise and shock when my two-person shop crew so badly misunderstood the simplest of instructions, forcing a race to the finish to mitigate the damage. I had stayed up late to complete a large, free-standing sign advertising a local home mortgage lender. It was to stand proudly in our town's convention center during the home and garden show. The sign was large but lightweight, made of thin plywood and a little structural lumber and would be used just this one time. But it looked good, and our client would be happy. We did not have a shop trailer avail- able at the time, and the sign was too large to lay down in my old narrow bed pickup truck. It wasn't going far, so we just set it up sideways in the bed of the truck with the tailgate down — sideways and parallel with the wind of the moving vehicle. There was no other wind. Instead of us figuring out ways to tie it down, Mark said he would ride the two miles or so over to the show in the back of the truck and could hold it if Mike went really slow. It was silly for me not to contest Mark's plan, but all I did was turn to the driver and say, "If Mark is going to hold it, just don't go any faster than about four miles an hour. It's a short drive anyway, so there's no hurry." Mike nodded and got in the cab while Mark took his place in the bed of the truck. They disappeared down the road, and I went straight back to work. I knew we were in trouble when just a few minutes later, Mark came busting in the door exclaiming, "I tried to hold it, Mr. Rick, I really did! I tried really hard, but at a point, I just had to let go. It was either it or me!" A frustrated Mike came in next, and I turned to get his take on things. His expla- nation put the blame purely on me, "Rick, I did exactly what you said and didn't drive a mile over forty." Goodness! Talk about not getting the instructions right! No doubt about it, miscommunication is an age-old human problem, and a lot of what sign makers do is aimed at trying to solve that problem with signs. But, I have to admit, I am a lot better at producing signs that communicate and give instruc- tions than I am at reading those aimed at me. I proved that failing of mine in a particularly hazardous way a while back at a hilltop park in Palos Verde, Califor- nia, when I stepped forward into an un- maintained area of rocks and grass to get a better cell phone shot of the ocean in the distance. My wife quipped, "Hey bud, you might want to read that little pole sign you just passed by; you know the one with the graphic of the snake and the text reading, 'Rattlesnake Habitat.'" Man! Leave it to Californians to adjoin a city park with a pit viper nature area. That might have been a bit worse than when, in a rush of nature's urgency, I made a mad dash into a restroom at the Vicks- burg National Military Park and Museum and took a seat. It wasn't long before sev- eral other clients made their way to the restrooms. Shortly I realized that all those who made their way into the facility spoke with obviously female voices. Brother, I didn't know whether to lift my size 11 cowboy boots up off the floor or leave them on the ground to show my location was occupied. Miraculously I extended my stay until they left, then I made a mad dash outside and past the other door that indicated it was for men — and clueless sign guys. Those instances were all some time ago, and I think I've gotten a little better over time. But, I have not declared victory just yet. Last week, I was hanging the last of several in- formation and direction signs from the ceiling of a large medical facility. A polite but plain-speaking patient walked past me in the hallway and said, "You might want to flip that one around, bud, as cardiology, where I just came from, is behind us, not in front of us." Well, at least, like my wife, he called me "bud," and not "dummy," as I'm sure the second moniker fits me even better, at least on some days here, "In the Trenches." I hope you're doing better than I am on any number of fronts, and I hope you have a really great month. 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 MIS-COMMUNICATIN'

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