In The Trenches: Dumb Attack

His expression for the occasions when one of the regular crew does something really stupid is having a dumb attack. We also give out a semi-regular (but fictitious) Bone Head Award for other significant blunders committed around the shop.

I was the recent recipient of that award, according to Kelly, when I came back into town from a trip to teach classes at one of The B.I.G. Shows.

I had left the shop in good shape, I’d thought, with work either finished for customers to pick up, or laid out and ready for the shop staff to work on while I was away.

But the Monday morning I returned, Kelly told me that I had gotten the Bone Head of the Week award while I was gone, because I had worked with Amanda to finish a batch of about 20 golf tournament signs, which we had goofed up.

They were to be picked up on the Friday I was gone, which also was a day Amanda had to be out, so Kelly was left to fix the mess we had made.

It seems when I had laid out the signs, I’d merely forgotten to change the year from 2001 to 2002 on the logo copied from the previous year, so each of them had an error.

Unfortunately, the mistake was in a reverse panel part of the logo, which meant a much greater effort had to be made to fix them all, almost while the customer waited, putting Kelly on the spot. So I got the award for my blunder when I returned.

A day or two later, frustrated with the ice build-up in our little not-frost-free shop refrigerator, but not having time to actually defrost it, I decided to chip out some of the ice with a claw hammer. This worked really well until I unintentionally scraped the bottom of the freezer compartment, making a very small scratch in one of the little ribs in the molded plastic there.

“Shhhhhhh,” came the sound of freon escaping into the atmosphere as I found out that the small lines of tubing that circulate refrigerant in the freezer are in the little parallel ribs in the freezer section floor.

I got the Bone Head Award again for fatally attacking our icebox... and damaging the ozone layer. Plus I got the $150 bill for a used refrigerator to replace the one I had assaulted (but at least our new/used one is frost-free!)

I was on a roll that week, having a streak of dumb attacks, as Walter would say. But streaks are meant to be broken, and as it turned out, my time as holder of the Bone Head Award would be short lived indeed.

For years, particularly since we have often hired part-time teenage workers, full of fun and baloney, I’ve had to be the straight man and sometimes referee to keep the horseplay down to a minimum.

Since Kelly and Amanda are also part of this scenario, and sometimes I know I should lighten up, I’ve been a bit lax on this zero tolerance policy recently.

Evidence of my lack of diligence has been all around the past several months, mostly in little and not-so-little wadded up balls of weed vinyl, used as projectiles thrown from time to time at some unsuspecting staffer. This environment of silliness ended with a simple gag that Amanda was playing on Kelly.

Seems she came up behind Kelly, and with scissors in hand, acted as if she was going to give her hair braid a little trim. Kelly instinctively tossed her hand back over her shoulder to flick Amanda’s hand away, unfortunately the hand holding the scissors, one point of which made a nice little stab wound into the muscle area below the thumb on Kelly’s right hand. I heard the yelp where I was in the front of the shop and knew something had happened.

I lost the award for stupid moves in the shop on that morning. And, more importantly, we all re-learned a lesson about horseplay or careless behavior.

Kelly probably should have gone to the emergency room immediately, but after being bandaged by Amanda, put it off awhile. The next day, the doctor said she should have gotten stitches, but by then it was a toss-up as to what should be done.

Kelly decided to let nature take its course, and fortunately everything healed up nicely, no stitches required.

Well, as you can tell from this story, at least in our sign shop, mistakes aren’t extinct or outdated.

But, we are okay as long as the only damage is to sign layouts, used appliances, and other inanimate objects. Keeping us all, from Walter on down, safe and uninjured as we go about our business of making signs, is the number one priority at the shop. And that’s more true today than ever (even if that means we have to protect ourselves from each other, sometimes.)

From now on, though, the policy at the shop is that humor and silliness still have a place, but it must only be verbal, never physical.

I hope your shop is running well, with zero injuries and few mistakes, and you don’t try defrosting your fridge with a hammer. If so, you’ll probably have a great month.

’Til next time,

—Rick