Sign Shop Casualty

These days we have a small satellite shop, for lack of a better word for it, where we do our fabricating and screen printing. It is located about half a mile from Rick’s Sign Co.’s main location on U.S. Highway 80. On one Thursday morning, I dropped by there to finish a job and pick up some work before proceeding to my usual hangout.

It was nearly 8 a.m., the time I would normally be opening the gate and driving to the back of our facility, when I rushed to the rear door of the fab shop, desperately fumbling at the lock, and ducked inside as a brief but powerful thunderstorm hit with a howling wind, horizontal rain and perhaps a bit of hail.

I got inside and went straight to work, having little time to waste. Later in the morning, I would be off to the airport to catch a plane to the Charlotte Sign Business & Digital Graphics Show, so every minute counted.

As usual, before I could accomplish much, my cell phone was ringing and I saw that someone from the shop was calling. I stopped what I was doing and took the call. The storm was nearly over, but the storm of running a sign shop was just beginning, in ways I had not anticipated, and things had taken a turn for the worse.

The disaster that was described by Amanda, who comes into work about a half hour after I do, had hit right where I stand to open the gate, and the gate was destroyed. I could have been driving through with my back to the monster right at that second, instead of finding a safe shelter in the other building. Or maybe I would have missed it easily enough, but my customer wasn’t so lucky.

I still feel terrible about the customer. And I hated to have to call his wife, who really was in shock when I gave her the news. I struggled for the right words, but surely could not find them.

“You can’t mean that; that can’t be true!” she said, the anxiety clearly ringing in her voice.

“I’m so sorry,” I said. I never thought I would have to make a call like this, to give a customer such bad news. She kept saying, “I don’t believe it; I don’t believe it.” And I could hardly believe it myself. Who would have thought that brief little storm could have caused such anguish, could have been snuffed out a life, just like that.

Not my life, no. I was spared, but the life of, the potential of, all the good years of… a brand new one-ton panel truck—a plumbing truck, fresh from the dealer, not yet even loaded with tools.

My client was doing it right, getting the graphics in place before putting it in service, and had parked it in the first parking spot inside the gate. It was the parking spot, the X-marks-the-spot, that our largest tree, giving in to the overwhelming power of the storm, took aim on and scored a direct hit.

But, except for my wallet ($1,250 for the tree service just to clean it up, and who knows what else to come), I was fine. And the trip to Charlotte, as well as the show, were about as good as they come.

I’m alive, and the truck is dead, and the shop itself was spared. These are all endings I can live with—and much better than the alternatives.

I hope you and your sign business are doing well, and avoiding the storms that have been so prevalent this season. But if you’re not that lucky, I hope all the casualties are just glass and plastic, rubber and steel. Like the preacher said, “Don’t cry over anything that can’t cry over you.” And all the congregation said, “Amen!”

Have a great month,
—Rick