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Two Pinocchios

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I finished the project Friday evening. I actually had this custom sign fabricated, parts powder coated, faces made with graphics, assembled and installed onsite and absolutely on time. But there was one more step, and one I have never had to do before, and I was not looking forward to it.

The reason I hadn’t ever needed to address this one failing with a client before, I credit to a lesson taught me by my dear mother, at our small house in Arlington, Texas, in the ’60s, when Arlington was a small town and the Dallas Cowboys played… in Dallas.

There was a barrel that my dad had filled with fresh water and set in our small one car garage, into which he had deposited several dozen live bait-type goldfish. They would be used that weekend to bait a trot line or two with, and we had been told to leave them alone.

My mother seldom left her three elementary age kids alone, so whatever she had to do must have been important, and she said would not take long. But her last words were, “While I’m gone, you kids don’t mess with those goldfish your dad has out in the garage, because if you excite them or play with them they might die, and your dad won’t be happy.

There were less than three years between my sister, my brother and I, and at that age we were plenty curious. Before my mother’s car had made it to the end of the block, the three of us were staring into that clear water teaming with pretty orange fish. But we resisted the urge to try to grab one … for a few minutes anyway. Then temptation was just too great, and we all took several fruitless turns at trying to scoop one up with our hands.

No harm done that we could tell, and were well away from there before my mother pulled in … and must have seen the water on the floor. Evidence of our wrong doing alluded us easily, and were totally surprised when, like any good investigator, “Mommy” interrogated us one at a time.

She grilled my sister, the eldest, first, and received a confession that sent her to her room. My brother was called in next, and when he passed me in the hallway, I did not yet know what was up, or that he too had confessed.

Oblivious to the evidence we had left, or the fact that my shirt sleeve was still damp (and maybe a bit fishy), when my mother asked me if I had disobeyed her, and had played with dad’s bait fish I looked her straight in the eye … and lied through my teeth. Those same teeth that would soon be bubbling with soap, an experience that at least took my attention from my smarting tail end and wouldn’t soon be forgotten, being that was 50 years ago and I remember it well.

And that’s why I could not believe my own ears when this same hurried customer had called a week earlier and asked me if I had gotten his sign permit. I said, “yes” without even thinking about it, though the forms, which I had intended to take on my lunch hour but didn’t, were still sitting right there on my desk. I guess I said “yes” because I knew that’s what he wanted to hear.

It was a lie all the same, and that soapy taste returned once again. It was one of the very few times in my life that I deserved it to, because my mother had really gotten her point across that summer afternoon many years before. Since then I’ve been accused more than once of being too honest for my own good.

So, my final step, in dealing with this actually satisfied customer, may be my confession, which they say is good for the soul. And I remember well, that on at least one occasion it would have been good for the backside and the taste buds, too.

How do the politicians do it?  Something like, “I miss-spoke”, as in “my mouth ran ahead of my brain and I’m admitting stupidity more than dishonesty.”  Well, that’s fairly accurate in this case.

Stupidity I have experience with.  Dishonesty I was vaccinated for a long time ago. Thanks, Mom. 

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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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