Please note, the opening of this blog only concerns itself with the job interview. Maybe in the future, I will put a story together and fully describe the three months that I set industrial diamonds heads onto heavy-duty cutting tools.
In the spring of 1974, Pat, one of my less significant, blabber-mouth neighbors was a secretary, receptionist and charwoman at a tool factory. This factory specialized in setting industrial diamonds onto cutting tools. She told my mom that they needed someone part-time and got me an interview.
The owner of Triangle Diamond was Mr. Lewis Bling. That makes him the original Mr. Bling. The man's name was never funny to me until trendy slang put the word into our current vocabulary. In retrospect, Mr. Bling was the polar opposite of what bling means today. With quiet indifference, he spoke with an Eastern European accent, (maybe his last name was shortened from something more ethnic). Plus, in his gray-blue lab coat, white dress shirt, 1940's-era bow-tie and tattered, plaid cab drivers cap, he might have been the least cool person I had ever met. JUST IN CASE YOU ARE MORE OUT OF TOUCH THAN I AM, "BLING," FOR THE MOST PART IS GAUDY, OVER THE TOP AND WHOLLY UNNECESSARY JEWELRY.
While Bling read my application and during the interview, one of his idiosyncrasies was eating generic Saltines. The flying crumbs were distracting enough but his annoying eating habit took two, incredibly slow forms. First, he took such small nibbles that he looked like a gnawing rodent doing barbiturates. The other was, he'd bite off a tiny, yet solid section. Then he'd transfer the piece onto his tongue just long enough for me to notice, before slowly chewing it. He took me from the office into his blackened factory.
In its heyday, Triangle Diamond probably employed dozens of workers at a time. Now devoid of staff, the big space remained unlit until we came to individual assembly stations. Bling would then turn on an over head fluorescent lamp and describe the hand-made process.
When the tour was over, he escorted me to the door. He didn't excuse himself when cracker bits flew out of his mouth as he said, "Patricia...will call you after I meet some other candidates." The door was shut behind me for just an instant when he reappeared and called to me, "On one of your references, Llewellyn Images, you didn't include a phone number." Before I could conger up a lie he added, "I'll have Patricia look in the Yellow Pages."
Suddenly, eons before the cell phones, I was racing with time. I had to tell the owner of Llewellyn Images that I used him as a reference. Llewellyn Images was a photography studio being opened by Gary, a friend's older brother. He had just taken over the empty store and was hoping to be operational in a month. On my application with Mr. Bling, I wasn't prepared to give a third reference, so I fudged Llewellyn Images.
Please note that I was twenty years ahead of "SEINFELD'S," George Costanza who used the faux reference, "Art Vandelay" as an all-purpose former employer. JASON ALEXANDER AS "SEINFELD'S" GEORGE COSTANZA. HIS CHARACTER USED THE NAME ART VANDELAY (OR VANDELAY INDUSTRIES), FOR FAKE EMPLOYMENT REFERENCES, ANY IN A WIDE RANGE OF EXCUSES, A DREAMED-UP BOYFRIEND TO HELP ELAINE, A BOGUS AUTHOR AND A NON-EXISTENT CLIENT.
Lucky for me, both businesses (Llewellyn and Triangle) were on the same street, a two-mile bus ride apart. Halfway there, I realized I could have called information and warned Gary by telephone. I was in a cold sweat when the bus arrived at my stop. I ran off and crossed the busy intersection by weaving through traffic.
At the place, I found Gary's brother and two of my other friends pitching in to clear out the debris from the former shoe store. While Gary orchestrated, I filled him in on my situation. Ten minutes later, the phone rang, it was Mr. Bling. Right before my eyes, I was given a sparkling recommendation...and soon got the job.
This column is NOT about my job as a diamond setter of industrial tools. This story is about the high risk of taking petty short cuts. And it starts shortly after I started helping my friends that day at Llewellyn Images. Gary developed a strong word-of-mouth business as a wedding and Bar Mitzvah photographer.
He was doing so well that he dropped-out of Kingsborough Community College to devote all his energies to his enterprise. Still, he didn't see a future working just weekends so he decided to expand his horizons by opening a full-time portrait boutique. He was on a limited start-up budget so with the help of family and friends, he was ripping and tearing out the previous tenant's interior himself. He even borrowed a pick-up truck, to cart the refuse away and had a connection to dump the mess for free.
I grabbed a hammer after Gary spoke with Mr. Bling and joined the process of dismantling the unwanted shelves and other fixtures. The five of us were having a lot of fun and in a short time, the store was virtually gutted. I was vacuuming when I noticed in the rear store room that they were struggling with the one last shelf, wedged high in a corner.
Two friends on ladders were pounding at the underside of the board but it wouldn't budge. Gary came over with a bigger hammer and handed it up. The first swing of the miniature sledge freed one side. The sick twisted sound of the other side's nails stubbornly trying to remain in place was coupled with the swift pendulum swing of the dusty wooden plank's free side. Before Gary could react, an exposed nail sliced across the inside crook of his elbow. A spontaneous geyser of blood caused three of the four of us to be frozen stiff by shock and ignorance. While Gary panicked and screamed in pain, nerd of nerds Marty Marvin stepped forward and took charge.
The unlikely hero pulled off his sweatshirt and used it to apply direct pressure to the wound. He then fashioned his belt into a makeshift tourniquet and ushered Gary out to his car and off to an emergency room. Gary could have been in serious difficulty if not for Marvin and recovered.
You would think that this life or death scare would have set a lifetime example for me to avoid cutting corners but it didn't. Just months after this, to save about fifteen dollars, I had a friend in auto mechanic school do a simple tune-up for me. He didn't properly set my timing belt and the result was enough engine problems that forced me into junking my car. BUMMER! I LOVED MY FIRST CAR ('68 DODGE POLARA) AND EVEN THOUGH MY DAD OFFERED TO FOOT THE BILL, I WAS TOO EMBARRASSED TO LET HIM.
I saw this bad mechanic trend continue when I lived in Vegas. To save money, an idiot I worked with had his brakes replaced by a bigger idiot. The bigger idiot didn't fully tighten one set of lug nuts. Then the regular idiot together with his fiance and future mother-in-law, had one of his tires fall off while speeding through the California desert to Los Angeles...somehow they got out with their lives but his restored El Camino was totaled.
Since then, I hate to admit it but I've gotten burned by pettiness a few more times. But a few months ago, when my wife Sue and I decided to remodel our kitchen, I thought it was time to end the cycle of ignorance. My first instinct was to re-face the existing cabinets and put in knock-off granite counter tops. We got estimates from some reputable outfits and couldn't believe the high price. Then we called in handymen. The cut-rate for the full job was tempting but the depth of the work called for; an artistic flair as well as expert knowledge in carpentry, electricity and plumbing. No one seemed to be masters of all the trades. Not to mention they had questionable liability insurance and couldn't make any guarantees.
Then out of the misty fog, HOBOKENKID stepped into the bright spotlight of center stage. She had no idea we were shopping for a kitchen make-over and was bragging about the job she just had done. Even stranger, I knew who did her job...I just had no idea that this Vietnamese gentleman and his three brothers were reknown kitchen re-modelers.
When HOBOKENKID told me how satisfied she was, Sue and decided to pay the boys at L & Z Stone Supply, a visit.
At their showroom/factory, I got reacquainted with Vinnie. I had lost track of him for five years. He was their salesman and possessed the best people skills. Like a patient friend, he guided us through our options and helped us formulate a plan. Another brother, Alex, specialized in the artistic design. He came to our house and made several interesting space saving observations and made other suggestions.
So when the oldest, behind the scene brother formulated a surprisingly affordable estimate and mapped out interest-free financing, our path was clear.
Vinnie said that the work, to temporarily re-locate our appliances, gut our kitchen, re-tile the floor, replace our cabinets, install the counter tops, do the back splash and re-install, and re-connect the appliances would take three to four weeks. Ouch! That's a long time to be washing dishes in the bathroom sink.
I work nights and suffer from sleep deprivation as it is. Sue would be at work so my ferocious dog Roxy served as my alarm clock. Promptly at nine each morning, after I got four hours sleep, my doggie would greet the youngest brother Wes the grunt laborer and his helper with vicious barks until I got my act together well enough to let them in.
Even if I was desperate, I could never take an afternoon snooze through their constant sawing, hammering and power screw-driving. During the first week, they even worked past six and prevented me from taking my necessary, pre-work nap. In no time, I became a zombie.SARAH PALIN'S 2008 HALLOWEEN VISIT HELPS DISPLAY OUR OLD FLOOR, 1980's STYLE CABINETS, FORMICA COUNTER TOPS, NO BACK SPLASH AND HIDEOUS FLUORESCENT LIGHTING. L & Z REPLACED IT WITH A TUSCANY GRAY PORCELAIN TILE FLOOR, CHERRY RED CABINETS TO THE CEILING, A CHERRY-WHITE GRANITE COUNTER TOP AND RECESSED LIGHTING.
Luckily, something got lost in the translation. Vinnie's imperfect English said the job would take three or four weeks which meant to me, 15-20 days. However, after seven working days of having no washer and dryer, no microwave, no oven, no dishwasher and our fridge in the dining room, Wes started moving these essentials back into place. More importantly, he announced that they wouldn't be coming back for ten days while their factory used the template they made to measure and cut our granite counter tops. Hallelujah!
During our "vacation," Sue made a list of fourteen concerns. Most were adjustments, nicks in the cabinets or drawers that didn't slide freely. When Wes came back, all the little problems were handled easily and the counter top was installed. The next day (yesterday) they put in the tile back splash. Now they are coming back in five days, (for one last day), to add the back splash grout, install the sink and re-connect all the appliances.
The bottom line is, I'm thrilled that the temptation to cut corners was avoided. We are thoroughly pleased with the meticulous quality of their work and would enthusiastically recommend the whole L & Z Stone team. (609) 813-2323.
Yes, it's true there were a small handful of snafus but as a further testament to the quality of their work, each potential problem was handled gracefully. The worst of these was; not turning the water on and making us think our one year-old washing machine was broken, (LACC, from across the street was our trouble-shooter on that one).
Also, L & Z displayed impeccable interior cleanliness and neatly bagged all their waste. But outside, our backyard and driveway was littered with their personal junk like; candy wrappers, cigarette butts and spit wads. I accepted the cultural difference and policed what I could myself...and once it rained...everything else was washed away.
We will be taking "after" pictures soon and I will add them to this blog. In the mean time, don't be penny wise and dollar foolish. Look at the quarter you put in the parking meter as insurance against a $35.00 ticket and if you want to avoid an ugly IRS audit, don't cheat on your taxes. More importantly, unlike Mr. Lew Bling, if you want to hire top-notch applicants, be sure to eat your generic Saltines in private.