I was so intent on getting to work on time today that I forgot to eat breakfast. I did have a cup of coffee, though, so that should hold me off for awhile.
Strangely, Tammy the Office Manager and I start off the day with a philosophical discussion on life and death and the meaning of dreams.
“There are about 250 million licensed drivers in the U.S.,” I say. “With that many cars on the road, someone’s bound to get killed every day. It’s not your time, it’s just the odds.”
I like the front office. It’s warm and cozy and quiet, unlike the shop. I could stay here all day…but I know I can’t. But I can for at least another 15 minutes, because the daily morning meeting with the crew is about to begin. Here is a sample of the dialogue:
“I have to finish the mudwork on the doorskin of the blue LaCrosse.”
Regarding the black Acura: “Can we deliver at noon?” “No, it’s going to take me a couple hours to put it back together. So better make it 2 o’clock.”
“The Dodge van is gonna be a total.”
“The Prius? It’s a fender and cover, plus an alignment.”
The meeting ends with all hands in the middle and a “Go, Nagy’s!” cheer.
Then it’s time to leave the comfort and safety of the front office and head back into Hell’s Kitchen. That’s probably an unkind word for the shop, though, considering how nice the fellas are – and I mean it. Eddie the Painter is friendly and patient. He has me scuffing another bumper, every nook and cranny.
“Even inside the slats?” I whine.
“Yes,” Eddie says. “And remember: You can never scuff enough.”
Scuffing apparently promotes adhesion. Yeah…that and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Around 10 a.m., I can hear my stomach growling over the whir of sanders and buffers. I am already thinking about pizza, which I will be buying the crew today to thank them for letting me sink their productivity levels to record lows.
The Sound of Music
At some point, I make this observation about the music I’ve been hearing over the last two days: country plays in the front office, while rock ‘n’ roll reigns supreme in the shop. Lots of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. In fact, yesterday I heard “Comfortably Numb,” and it was oddly appropriate, given that my head was floating from the fumes. Nagy’s is fully converted to waterborne, but there are still various other products around that contain solvent.
A little drama unfolded this morning as a Greenleaf Auto Recyclers truck could not get out of the parking lot due to ice. But Boomer and Eddie came to the rescue with salt, and all was well.
I also make this observation: many of the employees here smoke. I have heard the collision industry has a good share of smokers, and I am no exception – except that I’m currently fighting the habit. I very much wanted to join my mates for tasty nicotine, but kept strong.
Lunch could not have come soon enough. Five pizzas flash off quicker than waterborne basecoat in a tornado. As a bonus, we all get cupcakes to celebrate Eddie and Boomer’s birthdays. Incredibly, their birthdays are both on the same day.
Off to Doylestown
After a tearful goodbye (wait – was that a champagne cork popping?), I head off to the Doylestown store, the biggest in the family and the one that started it all in 1973. It’s not too far from the Wadsworth store, and I find it without any trouble.
Was that a grain silo I passed? This is farm country. I am told that the Doylestown store has seen its share of tractors. They have even painted cannons that reside on public square and serve as the city’s tribute to veterans of the military.
This shop does around $1.6 million in gross sales, lots of insurance work and is outfitted to handle heavy hits as well as all others. It has some of the first Chief frame machine models ever made. I saw one Super Duty truck valued at around $70,000 that sustained around $30,000 in damage. The limo of trucks, I called it.
I spot the first female I’ve seen over the last two days who is actually working on the shop floor. Her name is Bobbie Jo, and she is the shop’s full-time detailer. I ask her how she got into the business.
“I just sort of fell into it,” she says. Apparently, she has also worked as a valet and a truck driver. I ask her if she still parks nose out. She doesn’t laugh.
Tomorrow, I visit the Wooster store, which owner Ron Nagy calls the “gold mine.” Hopefully, there is treasure awaiting me there and not more bumpers to scuff.