For those who started to follow my art blog, I apologize for my extended absence. Short story, I started to move in November of 2010 and finished…ahh…well…this month. Life can be challenging from time to time, which brings me to today's topic.
Now I am not a doomsday-er, nor will I cry about the degradation of America, but this morning while fueling up the car, which has become a traumatic experience in itself, I noticed one of my tires was a little flat on the bottom. Closer inspection revealed the culprit responsible…a screw…obsessed with the old practice of hitch-hiking. Obviously, I have managed to magnetize the rims of both my car and my wife's car because this has become a monthly occurrence for both me and my wife.
At this point I could expound the fact that I feel thoughtless and or careless persons responsible for the large amount of tire damaging debris strewn about on our roads and highways should be sought out and displayed in some compromising fashion in our public squares, however this is about air, or in my case the lack of it.
Having just spent a large portion of my life's savings on a half tank of gas, I become obsessed with the conservation of the precious liquid, a goal to be obtained by making my tire a little rounder until I can remove the hitch-hiker. For this I need air.
Air is free, however to get it compressed has become a costly endeavor that everyone feels they must be compensated fairly for. That cost varies from place to place, but everyone seems to agree that to compress enough air to fill one tire costs $1.00 to be dispensed as quarters, or in some cases (if you are lucky) you can find discounted air for only 75 cents. Either way the discovery of a quarter requirement prompts a frenzied effort to rummage through the car in places your hands don't normally go in search of the elusive coinage. For that hard earned and sometimes sticky 75 cents a miniature compressor will huff and puff loudly for exactly enough time to fill your tire…if you are a practiced member of a Nascar pit crew…if not it gasps just long enough to fill your tire half way.
Although I am convinced that with a little mild exercise I can generate more compressed air than mini compressor can, I feel that it is worth 75 cents to not taste anything on my tires (I live in Amish country). I proceed with an Olympic version of automotive interior gymnastics that included, much to my daughters entertainment, a front passenger seat head stand, to obtain the proper number of quarters. Proceeding to the far corner of the parking lot, right next to R2D2 Vacuum machine is the air compressor…with no hose.
Undaunted, I drive to the next "service station" at a pace slightly faster than an Amish wagon and find another compressor. With high anxiety and sweaty palms I insert my sticky lint covered quarters, leap into action racing to the car tire pulling my air hose and...…silence. I enter the "service station" and find a kindly looking old gent behind the register. I ask, "Can you turn on the compressor, I paid 75 cents and it won't..." "Nope" he interrupted, while simultaneously reaching in the drawer to give me my quarters back. It was such a rehearsed motion as to bely that this was, and would always be, a reoccurring scenario.
Now my search for air has been elevated to a noble quest for the god given right to obtain a much needed service. Adopting a horrible British accent, I muse to my daughter about the possibility of opening a chain of much needed air stations throughout the nation. I head off to the daycare stop to be followed by a stop at "service station" number 3.
I find yet another mini compressor and apprehensively insert my quarters. The mini machine instantly springs to life when the last quarter fell into the change box. It was obvious because the noise it made was a few decibels shy of a scrap yard operating at maximum capacity. I grabbed the hose and sprinted towards the car with great speed only to be nearly yanked out of my undershorts. The hose would not deploy from the recoil, windy uppy thingy, choosing instead to remain frozen at about 4 feet long. The sight of me with both my feet on the wall, and my body horizontal like someone repelling down the side of the quickie mart, muttering obscenities with a British accent, attempting to free the frozen hose attracted far to much attention so I opted to dejectedly wander into the store to speak with an attendant.
I stood patiently in a long line and when it was my turn I explained to the smiling middle eastern attendant the drama surrounding the air hose and my precious 75 cents. At the conclusion of my harrowing story she was still smiling the same smile, but it was accompanied by a blank stare. She had to retrieve another attendant who deftly reached into the register when I was half way through my story (we have seen this act before) to return my 75 cents. As I emerged into the sunshine I am greeted by the din of the mini compressor, still rattling away!
The blasted machine was mocking me. In an act of pure genius and desperation I decide to back my car onto the sidewalk within a foot of the compressor. By wedging myself between the car and the wall and pulling with all my might I stretched the hose far enough to reach the air valve and as I start to fill the tire, the compressor shuts off. Before I can utter a single word a shadow falls over me and I glance up to see the 2nd smiling attendant carrying an out of order sign. She asks if I would like to try my money again and I sheepishly say, "yes".
So I got my air and you are probably asking, "What was the point of all this?" and "What does this have to do with art?" Here it is, there was a time in the not too distant past when a "service station" came with a polite, uniform clad, Happy Days cast off, who would happily wash your windows, and under the glow of a smiling green dinosaur would also check your oil and put air in your tires for free, when you purchased gas.
That ideal has been warped into accepted practices which can not even maintain a basic paid service that should always be available when you make a purchase. Service practiced as a trade or a craft is a rarity, and I know when I find exemplary service in a business that a great product accompanies it. I also know from personal experience that I will extol the virtues of such a business to anyone with ears.
As you go about the business of art, what can you do to offer a by-gone style of service to clients who purchase artwork from you? I think if you practice the "trade or craft" of service along with the sale of your art, it will set you apart from others and aid in the success of your career.