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Road Trips And Painting

Road trips are a necessary part of the paint business and they should be enjoyed, not endured. But be careful who you travel with. Painting out of town with some of your guys can be a great bonding adventure and even a character-building experience. Or it can be an embarrassing eye-opener. I have experienced both. For the record, I pre­fer the former.

I have been on out-of-towners with a few of my men, who, before the trip, I thought were sane. I wasn’t so sure after. One guy turned out to be afraid of the dark, which wasn’t so hard until someone closed his bedroom door by mistake. We thought there was a riot going on in the room, which had no windows or night light, until the door opened and a rather disheveled and sheepish painter emerged, swearing to do harm to the next man who closed the door. Another guy turned out to be a career drinker. I was incredulous at his capacity for beer. I didn’t know that much could fit in one stomach. He was a foot shorter than I and able to put away five times as much.

It was a revelation to me, but it explained his usual dark morning moods. I realized I was losing two hours per day to a hangover, and, worse, I discovered he relied heavily on “hair of the dog” to con­tinue his day, usually on one of his smoke breaks. It ended our working relationship not long after we returned home.

On another trip, I discovered one painter was in the wrong profession when he volunteered to cook supper for a crew of 12 men. We had our appre­hensions. After all, most of them didn’t know my painter, but since he was a tad chunky, we assumed he liked to eat and (we hoped) knew good food. He returned to the house with sev­eral bags of groceries, spending far less than we would have in a restaurant, and barricaded himself in the kitchen, telling us to go away for an hour.

The place we were staying in didn’t have a barbecue, but we could have sworn it did, because in 40 minutes we couldn’t concentrate, being over­whelmed by fire-pit-like odors from the kitchen that set our mouths watering. Like the proud chef he was, he brought out 12 prepared plates with vegetables, baked potatoes and T-bone steaks cooked to perfection on each. Nobody bothered him when he was work­ing after that. No one cared that he was a slowpoke—just as long as he cooked the rest of the meals.

On the other end of the scale, my men discovered, to their dismay, that I was not a quiet sleeper. I slept blissfully unaware of the racket I was producing in my throat. One man described it as standing inside a tunnel beside a train going past at full-throttle. Add to that, rocks in a tin can be shaken violently beside your ears – in the middle of your average tornado. Funny that it didn’t bother me a bit, but after the first night, they demanded I stay awake until they all got to sleep.

I still get comments about that trip to this clay, which is great fodder for friendships. It also gave the men some­thing to tease me about on the job. The best way to flourish in your pro­fession is to enjoy what you do for a liv­ing and develop good relationships with your employees. A few road trips are just what this paint doctor orders.