by Lyle Hill
You really shouldnt go back there, sir," the sweet looking uniformed lady said to me as I was wandering around looking lost.
"Why not?" I questioned.
"Well," she began, sounding almost apologetic, "its kinda off limits and I guess they dont want anyone to see whats back there quite yet."
"So exactly what are you hiding behind that big blue curtain that you dont want me to see?" I asked with a bit of a snicker in my voice.
"Oh, its not much of anything, but I think theyd be a little disappointed if you went back there before they were ready," she replied. "And you dont want to hurt anyones feelings, now do you?"
Now at this particular moment, I was completely confused. She was right of course . . . I didnt want to hurt anyones feelings. But the problem was, I was in a part of the country where I had been led to believe that hurting other peoples feelings had been elevated to an art form. For you see, I wasnt in my familiar, friendly surroundings of Chicagoland where kindness and consideration for others is a way of life...oh no...I was in Manchester, NH, which is smack dab in the middle of New England. I was there to speak at the Glass Forum 98, which was being sponsored by the New Hampshire Glass Association, Maine Glass Dealers Association and USGlass magazine. And, I was more than a little concerned about my venture into the area because I truly believed that New England, with its cold, rude, inhospitable people was no place for this gentle, peace-loving guy from Chicago.
But within hours of my arrival, my fears and suspicions began to disappear, for everyone I met and all that I observed had been nothing but pleasant. To begin with, my cab driver actually spoke English . . . a novel concept, I thought . . . and once he found out that I was from Chicago, we had a great conversation about Michael Jordan and the Bulls. The hotel clerk was a Cubs fan and couldnt have been more friendly and courteous. And later that day, at a cocktail party for those of us there to attend the Glass Forum, I met all kinds of friendly people from the New England area. There was John Lafreniere (Lafreniere Glass), Bob Wardrop (Petit Industries), Mark Daniels (BTB Tools), Janet Parkhurst (Oates & Parkhurst), Ed Brill (Maine Glass), Bill Aubin (Queen City Glass), and even that young turk Joey Karas from Karas and Karas. And of course, for me the trip would not have been complete had I not been able to meet Tom Parsons from Tower Glass in Woburn, MA. I was told that Tom was one of the original movers and shakers behind the whole event. What a nice guy . . . but then again, everyone I had met had been nice. Could I have been wrong about these New Englanders???
"So," I said firmly as I made direct eye contact with the pleasant acting guard, "Why are you people so stinking pleasant? I mean after all, dont you usually take delight in treating strangers with an air of indifference bordering on open hostility?"
"Oh, not anymore," she replied, smiling ever so sweetly. "We used to be pretty rough on people, but thats all changed."
"What changed you?" I asked.
"Well, Ill show you," she said, as she pulled back the curtain she had been protecting.
And there it was . . . a very long, somewhat narrow plywood board with plexiglass side rails and an electrical outlet box on one end. Now I was really confused.
"Whats it for," I questioned.
"Its for Belt Sander Races," she responded.
And she was not lying . . . I would find out upon my return to the cordial, hospitable confines of Chicago that the contraption really had been used to race belt sanders. In fact, I was told that Bill Aubin (Queen City Glass) had taken first place and that Jan Parkhurst (Oates & Parkhurst) had captured the title of Best Decorated Sander.
"And this is what is responsible for changing the very essence of your nature," I asked in disbelief.
"Yes," she said, "and were going to be bringing it to the Glass Expo Midwest in Grand Rapids, MI, this October. We felt that they could use some help in the Detroit area although were pretty confident that they wont be anywhere near as good at this as we are.
"Well," I said, "youre probably right about them needing help in Detroit, but you dont need to send your contraption to Chicago . . . were OK just the way we are."
"Actually," she began, "we did send one to Chicago, but I dont think well be doing that again in the future."
"Why not?" I asked, "Were we just too good for you guys?"
"No, it got stolen!"
Lyle R. Hill is president of MTH Industries of Chicago, IL, one of the countrys largest contract glazing companies. You can send e-mail to Hill at email@example.com.
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