Paper Trail

This past Friday evening, while putting in a little extra layout time at the shop, my wife called to remind me that we needed to drive on over to Tyler, 35 miles or so away, to visit her father who was in a rehab hospital after having knee-replacement surgery.

Since the shop was more or less on the way to Tyler from our home, I suggested she just pick me up at work, giving me a few more minutes to wrap things up.

Much later in the evening, on the return trip home, we absentmindedly took a slightly different route and forgot to retrieve my truck parked in front of Rick’s Sign Co. But neither one of us realized we had skipped that little detail.

On Saturdays, I always sleep late, and go to work, or start working on something, about 30 minutes later than usual. That day, the weather was picture perfect when I stepped out of the front door about 8:15 a.m., and headed to my truck. But when I rounded the corner of the front porch and looked toward my 2000 model Dodge half-ton truck, it was nowhere to be found. Truck, tools, ladder and all, were now gone with the wind. Someone had stolen my truck right out of my own driveway!

Before I became too upset over that devastating loss, I thought about where the truck was the last time I saw it, and soon remembered what we had done, or rather had forgotten to do the night before.

No problem, though. Sharon wasn’t up yet, and would likely not be needing her car until lunchtime or so, so I quietly stepped back inside the house, grabbed my set of her car keys from the kitchen cabinet, and off to work I went. We had been safe keeping an antique truck belonging to a friend of mine, which was in our garage in my wife’s parking spot, so Sharon had been parking outside too, and I’m sure she never heard me leave.

Sometime later that morning, now showered, dressed and with makeup in place, Sharon stepped outside to get in her car. But, to her shock and dismay, it was nowhere to be found. And she thought to herself, “someone’s stolen my car, and right out of my own driveway!”

Now I’m not sure how long it took her to sort this all out, but I think somewhere just short of dialing 911. Then she simply stole my daughter’s car and went on with her business.

You might think that grown people, who cannot keep up with something as large as a vehicle, might have a bit of trouble keeping up with any number of items used in day-to-day living, and at least in my case, you would be right. The day-to-day running of a five-person commercial sign shop, and all the work orders, bids, permits, phone calls, employee instructions, deadlines and so forth, is sometimes more than I can manage and things can certainly slip through the crack on occasion.

And that’s exactly what happened to a very important bid I had worked on recently. It was a bid for more than $5,000 worth of sign work for a local industrial company that had been bought out and needed to change its name on all of its outdoor signage.

The potential customer had sat on my proposal for a month or more, and then called to say that we had the job, and we could get started as soon possible. Then, he added that the last item or two on the page I had faxed over to him was either cut off or unreadable, and could I please fax the entire bid over once more? “No problem, I’ll be glad to do it,” I replied sincerely, and fully expected he would have his improved copy in a minute or two. Then the fun began.

I looked in the stack, actually two or three stacks of folders of ongoing work, and proposed work, which I have on the top of my desk, and it was not there.

No big deal, it was just a bid, not an approved job to do. It would be in the front office filing cabinet under “bids”. Or so I thought. But, it was not to be found there either.

Having no other likely places to look, but realizing the paper copy wasn’t that important, I began to search my computer files since I always type out a customer proposal and it would certainly be there, yes be there at least, no matter what. But electronic searches of every type turned up absolutely nothing.

“Oh no!” I thought. That hard drive failure a week or two before must have gotten it! We knew there would be a few things that hadn’t been backed up when the crash came, and sure enough this missing bid was one of them. What bad luck!

“Alright, the paper copy of that bid, and the papers I worked from that included digital photos of the company’s signs printed on copy paper, would not have been thrown away. It would be in one of our clear-faced folders and had to be around here somewhere. But a renewed inventory of the top of my desk, and searches of my office, the front office, the break room, and every other place I could think of turned up nada, zip, zero, not a single page!

In total frustration, I sat down, which jolted my thinking faculties a little bit. And though I knew I was grasping at straws, I questioned myself with that age old query, “where was the last place I saw it. Where… where… where?

And then, from my little office down south in East Texas, like a bolt of lightning, I remembered the exact location of the last time I saw and handled that bid and placed it in its folder with all those other papers.

I was downtown.

I was standing in Kinkos.

I was standing in Kinkos... in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana!

Talk about losing paperwork! Not. For there, in my office, on a credenza not three feet from my desk, in a three-ring binder holding literature collected at that metal finishing tradeshow I attended in Indy, was the missing folder, the photos, the papers and the bid handwritten on a plane ride to the Hoosier State, and faxed to my client in Texas just after breakfast the very next morning.

Bid found, sanity regained, equilibrium restored, client’s request complied with. (All true except for that sanity part.) And I was fine for a week or two, until the next important thing I would lose, which happened to be my truck. Yes, I need help, but I’m not likely to get it.

However, I hope that you’re not at all like me, and your highly organized sign business is running smoothly, and that you have a really productive and wonderful month, in beautiful downtown wherever you are.

’Til next month,

—Rick