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    Entries in Father's Day (2)

    Sunday
    Jun182017

    FACTORY AIR

    This story is dedicated to my father since it’s about him.

    For most of my life, I didn’t know anyone who knew more about cars than my father. He used to own a front end alignment business in Flemington, NJ, and worked on every one that was brought to his shop. In his later years, we could be sitting around watching old B&W movies on TCM and he’d recognize the cars. “Oh, there’s a 1941 Buick!”

    One of his favorite lines about those old cars was that, “Back then, you could order a car in any color you want as long as it’s black.”

    In 1986, he bought a new Topaz from a local Mercury dealer. Of course, this being Florida and all, it had to come with air conditioning. Being that he knew a lot about cars, he took a look under the hood and noticed something that didn’t look quite right. “Is that factory air?”

    The sales rep responded, “Of course it is.”

    “Are you certain this is factory air?”

    “I absolutely guarantee it. It’s factory air.

    OK, he thought, so he bought it.

    Years later - and out of warranty, of course – his factory air stopped working. Yes, they do get overworked in the Florida climate. He couldn’t fix it himself so he took it to one of his mechanic friends.

    “This isn’t factory air conditioning. It’s after market.”

    “You’re kidding! The dealer swore it was factory air.”

    “Trust me, it’s not anything Ford ever made. I can’t fix it.”

    That totally infuriated my father. He had a terrible temper to begin with, but when someone did it over cars; something he was quite knowledgeable about? Forget it! He tore out of there and headed straight to the dealer to give them more than just a piece of his mind.

    Parked at the service department, he jumped out and approached one of the reps. “I need you to take a look under the hood and tell me what kind of air conditioner it is. My mechanic can’t fix it!” When in a fit of rage, my father was known to use language he didn’t learn in church. “When I bought this car, the salesman swore it was factory air. He lied to me!”

    “No sir, he was telling you the truth,” the man replied.

    “NO HE WASN’T!!!” And from there, I’m sure it escalated. “You’re nothing but a bunch of liars!”

    “Sir, please come with me.” He led him to the parts department. Along the wall and stacked high were boxes and boxes that said it all. Printed in large, black, bold letters, was the brand name of the after market air conditioners that are installed by the dealer…

    FACTORY AIR. Yes, the brand name was Factory Air.

    “We’ll be more than happy to repair it for you.”

    “No way!” and my father stormed out. Only the dealer carried parts.

    While there’s nothing wrong with the brand, my father felt he was taken advantage of. Lied to. And he was. Because of his very stubborn German blood, he refused to let the dealer touch the car, so he drove it for years without air.

    Personally, I had to agree with him. I think it was a very shady way to do business in the hot Florida sun.

     

    Sunday
    Jun192016

    A FATHER'S DAY PRIMER IN EXTERIOR PAINTING

    I originally wrote this in 2007. This morning, I made a couple of minor edits and here it is, my Father’s Day story. 

    Way back in the 1970s, when I lived in New Jersey, my boss would lay me off during summer months because he could get three school kids on break to work for what he was paying me. I was happy since I got time off to work outside painting residential and commercial buildings. Without a doubt, I took great pride in my work and made pretty good money, to boot. Satisfaction all the way around!

    In those days, I preferred oil base or alkyds over latex because there was less of a chance of mold and mildew developing on the surface, mostly on shaded sides. Occasionally, my father would drop by my job sites to see me diligently at work. He’d always call me Rembrandt.

    About fifteen years ago, now in Florida, he asked me if I’d be interested in painting his house. Sure, I said. I wasn’t going to charge him for my work, but I certainly wasn’t going to pay for the cost of preparation and materials.

    Two of my friends were professional painters. Since I had been out of that field for many years, I wanted to know what, if anything, was new since the days of old. I said I preferred oils over latex. They were adamant in their reply, “No! Latex today is much better than it was back then. It has really good mold inhibitors now. Oil base paint will actually encourage mold, especially here in Florida.”

    That was a real surprise, but the last time I painted anything was when I lived up north. In Florida, structures have to contend with incredible heat, the effects of the sun and torrential downpours. The sun, in particular, depletes and dulls the paint’s pigment.

    “Make sure you have the house pressure washed and sealed before you do it. That is very important,” they both told me, “or the paint won’t stick. If you don’t, the paint will crack, peel, and bubble in a year or two.”

    I passed that information on to my father and he said, “No, I just want it painted. Just that, nothing more.”

    I went back to my friends and told them what he said.

    “When you run your finger across the surface and that chalky stuff comes off, that’s dead paint. Try painting chalk and see if it sticks. Go ahead.” They’d had these problems before, obviously, with cheap customers wanting to save money. These would be the same customers that would run back to the painter to complain at the first sign of trouble. That’s my father. Is that what I wanted? No, so I told him I wouldn’t do it unless he prepped the house. Period.

    “Knowing you,” I said, “you’ll run back to the paint store screaming about inferior paint and the first thing they’re going to ask is, did you pressure wash and seal it first? What are you going to tell them?” He relented and agreed. He had no choice if he wanted me to do the job. I asked him to get it washed and I would seal it. It was still going to be much cheaper than hiring a painter because labor wouldn’t be a factor.

    The house is one story with a full attic. It’s constructed of cement blocks with the front and sides having a stucco finish The attic is wood, gabled with a 6/12 pitch. I made sure all wood trim was scraped, allowed to dry, and primed where necessary. I always apply two coats. When I began my prep work, I dug out the foundation all around, brushed off the dirt, and allowed it ample time to dry. In case of ground erosion, I didn’t want any areas exposed without paint. Then, I began, from top down …

    I made sure to paint under window sills that had never seen a brush. For some reason, many contractors avoid finishing areas you don’t normally see and that exposes part of the building to the elements. Besides, suppose someone’s planting flowers around the house. They look up at the sill and see sloppy, unfinished work. Not good. After painting the entire house by using only brushes, I finished and filled the dirt back in at the foundation. (I told you I am meticulous. Fifteen years later, the house is still in very good shape.)

    Several months after I completed my job, the people next door decided to paint their house. It was a classic case of ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’ While it looked nice, he didn’t listen to the painter or he got his pimple-faced nephew to do it because, about a year or two later, like clockwork, the paint began to crack, peel, and bubble, just like my painter friends said.

    One afternoon, the neighbor came knocking on my father’s door. Very puzzled, he asked, “Why aren’t you having the problem, too?”

    Ahhh… my father had a very knowledgeable answer. “Did you pressure wash and seal it before painting?”

    “No…” the neighbor replied.

    “I see,” he said, already primed with an expert and authoritative response. “Well, you should have asked me first. I would have gladly told you.”