In The Trenches: At the Speed of Light

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Caden, our four-year-old grandson, was the first to wake. Carson, his six-year-old brother was still asleep. I got up and went around the end of the bed, stopped and made eye contact with Caden there on the inflatable mattress Sharon had covered with sheets and blankets, and said, “don’t get up until I get out of the shower, and I will fix your breakfast.”

As I walked away toward the bathroom door I heard him reply something like, “Poppuhateddybear.” As I grabbed the bathroom doorknob, I turned and said, “What?”

“Poppuhateddybear,” which was still a mystery to me and confusing, because he loves his “blankie” but had no teddy bear I knew of.

I walked back over and looked right at him. “What did you say?” I asked again. He seemed to study me for a few seconds, and then announced, “Pop, you have crazy hair!”

One look in the bathroom mirror proved how right he was, though I never doubted the accuracy of his description. Communication with little kids is often amusing, and totally honest, and as with all kids, Caden’s communication skills are always evolving. I sure hate to see him grow out of the cute things he says, like his name for that scaly reptile of the southern rivers and bayous, the toothy and ever menacing “crocadator.” 

Communication has evolved in my years of being in the sign business, too, and even just in the timeframe of my years writing these “Trenches” articles. The first Sign Business issue was published in October of 1986, and I didn’t even have a cell phone back then, nor did anyone I knew of. And the first one I got had its own bag to hold the base unit and the required five pound battery (literally!)

Ronald Regan was president back then, and I would send these “Trenches” articles from Longview, Texas, to the NBM office in Broomfield, Colorado, on our new fax machine, which cost as much as a nice used car. Our fax was fastest digital communication ever, and it would be several more years before the internet became available to mere mortals and sign guys.

Of course, now we can all talk to anyone in any corner of the planet, in real time, with text, voice or even video moving at the speed of light, or the speed of electrons, which I think is basically the same thing. And I am old enough to not take these quantum leaps in communication technology for granted.

There is, however, a few types of digital communication that even today are slower than a mail truck, even though they use the same networks as everything else. One of those is whatever system the IRS uses to post and record payroll tax deposits we send in every month. Even though sent over the internet, if you have ever made one you know the software system already knows it’s going to be a slow go, as you are forced to pick the day your payment will get posted, and their little graphical calendar doesn’t even allow you to choose a time sooner than 48 hours from when you send it. Good grief, I could literally drive my tax deposit from northeast Texas to St. Louis in less time, going the speed limit, filling up every hundred miles, and spending the night at a Holiday Inn Express.

And some of our credit card sales, intended to put instant money in our business checking account, are actually slower than that. Go figure? How can it take three or four days for an electronic financial transaction to make its way back to our bank and put the cash where we can use it?

Where did it go at the speed of light? Around the globe a thousand times, filtered through Wikileaks, the Pentagon, the Kremlin, spend a night or two in Hillary’s server, and then back to my hometown in Longview, Texas, minus a few percentage points. It’s a wonder it wasn’t minus more than that.

Oh well, at least most modern forms of communication really are fast, and amazingly capable of connecting all of us, sign guys included, to just about anyone, just about any time, in no time at all. A blessing, which really helps when you are right at deadline, writing the 361st “In the Trenches” article, and your editor is waiting by his fax… uh… well waiting by his computer anyway.

I hope your sign business is doing well, and your credit card sales post before your payroll taxes, which is always a good thing. Have a great month.

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Rick Williams

Rick Williams owns Rick's Sign Company, a commercial sign shop in Longview, Texas. He has been in the sign industry since 1973 and has been a contributing editor to Sign Business since 1986. Contact Rick via e-mail at ricksignco@aol.com.

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