Thread: Unpaid Bill
View Single Post
  #156  
Old 09-19-2019, 02:17 AM
vapros vapros is online now
Verified Member
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: baton rouge, la
Posts: 3,269
Default A terrible choice

Here is a little story. Not a very entertaining story, but one with a moral of sorts. Some of you may know similar stories.

In about 1965 I had been in the bowling business for six years and was deadly tired of smiling at the public, and I was looking for another way to finance my trips to Food Town. At the age of thirty-three I became a sign painter, or rather that was when I began the long and painful process of learning how. In the beginning I sold my work cheap because it wasnít very good, but there was a market there in the city of Thibodaux. This was something I could do alone. I built a small shop in my back yard, an adventure I will talk about some other time.

There was only one real sign man in town, a guy who could swing the lettering brushes and I envied his skill. His name was Frank Lusco and he had a one-man shop a block off Canal Boulevard. He was elderly by the time I knew him and he was an old-time sign man. He didnít do electric or neon, he didnít do sandblasted signs and he didnít do changeable-copy signs with individual letters one could move around to change your message Ė like in front of churches. (Sign broken Ė message inside) Frank painted and he did it well, but slowly. He was short and chubby and he had a pencil-thin mustache and dark curly hair. I believe he might have been an Italian Ė did I mention his name was Lusco? He was always busy and always talking about closing the shop and retiring to rest his heart and I hoped he might be willing to help me. But he wasnít. If I asked a question about signs his answer was that I could figure it out on my own, as he had done. He might talk with me on other topics but my impression was that he wanted to be left alone and thatís what I usually did. But his place was right on my route to the bowling lanes and the big overhead door was usually open unless the weather was bad, and as I passed I could often see what he was working on, and sometimes I would pull over and go and stand in the doorway to watch. I donít think he liked it but I didnít care and I didnít ask questions. He could have closed the door. He was an excitable little guy and it was not wise to set him off. I had learned that early on.

In 1966 a young man with some money paid the NFL a franchise fee of seven and a half million dollars and became the first owner of the New Orleans Saints. I guess he still had some money left, because a couple of years later he bought a Sulphur mine in the swamp near Chacahoula, just southwest of Thibodaux. Bought it from Freeport Sulphur who had closed it down some years earlier. For those not familiar with the area, Chacahoula is on LA 20, between Schriever and Donner. Young John arranged for a grand-opening shindig at the site, with speeches, live music, jambalaya and possibly some beer. His manager had contracted with Mr. Lusco to paint a sign, to be hung at the mine site by the morning of the party. They furnished Frank with a blank on which to paint the sign. The blank was a slab of steel three-eighths of an inch think and nearly as large as a pool table. It weighed a lot and the men had set it up on saw-horses and braced it with diagonal two-by-fours all around. It was to be a double-sided sign featuring young Johnís name in large letters with a double outline and a shadow. Other information below.

When I drove by that morning I could see the big sign just inside the overhead door. The name was done very impressively in eighteen-inch letters. Iím sure the other side was the same. I did a double take and crossed the center line of the street and swerved back and nearly hit the ditch in front of the shop. Wide-eyed, I pulled into the Malt ĎN Burger on the corner to consider the mistake I was about to make. After maybe ten minutes of review I left the truck and walked back to the shop and stood in the doorway. Frank swung around to face me. He had a brush in his hand and he was frowning and waving his arms at me.

ďNot today, Mr. Bill,Ē said Frank. ďI just finished and some of the paint is still wet and the truck is gonna be here in forty minutes. You just go on about your business!Ē

I had made my decision while sitting at the Malt ĎN Burger. ďFrank,Ē I told him, ďthatís not the way he spells his name.Ē There on the saw-horses was John Mecom, Jr.ís sign. It read, in large letters, M E A C O M. The little manís knees buckled and he went pale as a ghost. He turned and hustled across the shop and into the little office. He emerged with a work order in his hand and a stricken look on his face. He charged up to me and pushed hard with both hands to my chest and I stumbled backward and went down on my butt in his driveway. I sat there and watched him tremble. He was near tears and his glare was pure hatred. I got to my feet and dusted myself off and walked back to my truck. I passed the shop again as I was leaving. His back was to the door and he was scrubbing the beautiful display with rags and a solvent of some kind Ė varsol or lacquer thinner Ė and already it was a terrible mess. I think he turned his head as I went by but I didnít let him see me looking in.

I donít know what else happened that day. No doubt he had a confrontation with the truck driver when he got there, but I had given him an option. He could admit his spelling error or just tell the guy he had not had time to finish it. He could say his house had burned down or his brother had dropped dead or just about anything. It would have all been the same to the truck driver, who probably worked by the hour. Missing a deadline is never good but misspelling the customerís name is a cardinal sin. If I had it to do over, which I donít, I would have bought some lunch at the Malt ĎN Burger and gone on to my job at Sugar Lanes. I never went back to try to make amends with Mr. Lusco. And now, more than fifty years later, Iím trying to think of a punch line for my story, but it just wonít come. You will have to make your own.
__________________
If it ain't funny, it ain't much.
Reply With Quote