Tales of a Traveling Airbrush

When I write up one of my more memorable masterpieces, or some of my various memories, I will post them here for you to enjoy. Comments are welcome; I'll try to reply.

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Thursday, January 16, 2020

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Tampa Spring Company

John Messina Jr, President
8820 N Brooks St
Tampa, Florida 33604

February 25, 2016

Dear John,
I write this letter to you about my observation of the recent experience with your Tampa Spring Company with the intention to be helpful with a suggestion that will perhaps benefit your customers in the future, and express some of my gratitude. As you no doubt recall, when my RV trailer came to your facility to have the springs replaced, the workman placed the jacks under the rear of the trailer and lifted the entire unit off the ground while still attached to the truck, forcing the entire weight of the unit on the kingpin structure under the bedroom (that is only designed to support the tongue weight) resulting in disaster and certainly shortening its lifespan. The unfortunate efforts of the first man to tackle what began as a three hour job, as you know, ended up requiring the superstructure that supports the king pin to be exposed, diagnosed and repaired. At that time you assured me “we will take care of all the damage.”
At first, when I communicated with Howard about how handling this repair in a timely manner is of utmost importance, due to my upcoming route where the trailer plays an important role, he responded with “I don’t see a problem (with getting this done within two weeks so that you will be able to meet those obligations)” - but when the first of a series of welding repairmen began with their unsatisfactory efforts, and I had to participate to insure that structural integrity was restored, the professional relationship of service provider and stranded customer began to experience a paradigm shift.
I can only imagine that Howard and the men on the crew felt a number of emotions for having made such a negative impact and expensive mistake. Perhaps they felt ashamed, sheepish, perhaps foolish and confused. Then after being reprimanded – these emotions sank even further. True to human nature, and probably not knowing what was going on emotionally – they needed someone to blame and made me the bad guy. The series of steps required in the repair, no longer remained priority and passive aggression replaced what would have been appropriate in this situation. One welding guy actually told me that the unit would catch fire behind the area I insisted that he weld. His concern was not true. I explained that an aluminum tube was behind the broken flange and that wood was not behind it. Even alerted to this truth, no additional welding took place by that workman.
The round trip from Plant City consumed and hour and a half each time I drove to your shop to review the progress. About the fourth trip – Howard announced to me that he was too busy to come from behind the counter to consult with me about my real concern about the welding of simple “stitches” in a crucial area that had already been covered up by the cosmetic panels prior to my inspection. At that time, another man was assigned to the task of customer relations. I dismantled the panel myself to reveal the precarious and substandard repair that could have left me stranded along the road. Phil agreed with my strategy to introduce structural integrity with additional welding but before any work took place, he was pulled off the job.
The next day I received a request from Howard to drive in the rain into Tampa again, (my fifth trip) and from underneath his umbrella, he defiantly announced to me that he was not going to do anything else. I suspect that Howard uses a manipulative ploy to promote anger in his adversary so that he can justify his inappropriate and less than professional behavior and is the main source of derailing this project that should have been accomplished in three days. I remained calm and requested a conversation with you and discovered that I would have to return again the following week.
Upon returning the next week (the beginning of week three) with my friend Paul the fabricator, after looking at the precarious crucial area, agreed with me about the “stitching” being weak, he suggested with you a strategy that would work, that interestingly coincided with my tactic of the week before.
I am most fortunate to have been taught by the founder of Lazydays, during the fifteen year period I was the resident artist, in regard to customer dedication and service policies, the philosophy of regard for others and how these and delivering consistent outstanding service makes the company great.  I continue to utilize what I learned at Lazydays as I provide outstanding service to others on a route that takes me across the nation to customer dedicated Harley stores and motorcycle events. The name Letterfly is synonymous with an encouraging, positive demeanor and consistent, high quality output.
 As a public inspirational speaker and seminar leader, you would benefit from having me speak to you, your staff and crew about how the incorporation of a shift in perception of the workplace, task objectives and regard for your customers, can bring about a greater sense of purpose and productivity, resulting in greater happiness in the workplace.
John, I suspect that part of the paradigm that promotes dysfunction in your company involves an inability to have regard and listen with empathy for the truth of the matter at hand and having an honorable goal. I saw these characteristics alive and well in you when I was explaining exactly what happened structurally when the bedroom floor that is attached to the king pin structure acted like the blade in a shear and tore off the flange on the lateral connecting beam for several feet, as it tilted upward into the bedroom from where it was attached to the sidewall. (That HAD to be strengthened) this was proved when we went inside to see the cabinetry that was crushed. If this dynamic is being modeled by you, then the same behavior is affecting you by your workforce.
At the end of week three, I had driven into Tampa seven times and the interruption in my work flow had already cost me well over a thousand in lost income. I was actually surprised that I was charged anything by Tampa Spring for the original three hour job, prior to hauling the trailer over to the paint shop where my urgent situation and looming deadline was stressed but not realized. True to form, the estimator’s error required two days to correct – the job, being postponed, took until Friday, costing me the ability to make the first event on my route – the annual Harley Davidson Appreciation Party in Port Charlotte, where I typically depart the Wednesday before Valentines Day. Friday night I finally made it home with the rig. A month had passed. I had driven into town a total of nine times. I bet if I had been put up in a hotel for the duration of the repair at your expense, the work would have been completed faster.
As I see it, the instruction “let’s get this guy fixed and back into business” got lost in the tangle of various personal agendas, psychological dramas and perhaps pure prejudice that actually promoted defensiveness, defiance and procrastination in the ranks. And legal liability concerns took priority over what was the decent thing to do for the customer. With the “sign off” document at the conclusion of the debacle, I heard no “I’m sorry for what happened here, and for what it cost you” from anyone. This is another clear indication that there exists a goal within your company that is different from the functional service providers’ goal that I utilize in my profession – always striving to give outstanding service that exceeds the customer’s expectations. It would be insane for you to believe that this is an isolated incident.
Not only could the original problem have been prevented with capable supervision, utilizing an appropriate manner of lifting the vehicle without doing damage, but the repair could have been made in an efficient and timely manner if the focus of the attention of all involved remained on doing the right thing for the customer and discarding all personal agendas, defiance and prejudices that not only bogged the repair down to a crawl but cost the customer dearly with both additional needless expense, loss of income and inconvenience, not to mention shortening the lifespan of the RV.
Sadly, this tendency logically trickles down through the ranks from the top. Hopefully, this episode and what has been revealed is something you can learn from, and seek to incorporate ennobling tactics to replace what will only promote the demise of your company. The compromise of structural integrity, personal inconvenience and needless expense is something incalculable that I will eventually absorb. Thanks to you, this has been an expensive learning experience. Of utmost necessity will be to ongoingly monitor the condition of this unit, and move up the plan for its replacement.
I did mention that I wanted to express my gratitude. What I find to be the most appealing discovery of this fiasco is the realization that Howard works for you and not for me, something I will be eternally grateful for.
I wish you the best,

Dave Knoderer

Monday, May 23, 2016

Foreign Accents

Review; Foreign Accents Auto Repair
5316 W Market St
Greensboro, North Carolina 27409

The least favorite part of travel across this wonderful land in my antique VW bus is when I have mechanical issues. I prefer to get all of this work done at home by the mechanic that takes good care of me. Recently, two months into my annual tour of the country, my 1978 bus began running rough, became hard to start, would die while waiting at intersections and even backfired once. My attempts to find the culprit of this issue failed and I sought a repair facility in North Carolina, and through a service provider listed in the Transporter newsletter was referred to Foreign Accents in Greensboro. I was assured over the phone that, yes, they had the ability to get on it, and in the process of determining if a significant part was bad, they also had a bus similar to mine to swap parts with. I got the bus to them. They immediately noticed the burst muffler and announced to me their intentions to zero in on the first suspect; the points. I wasn’t suspicious of the points because of the recent tune up with my regular mechanic back home.
Although the repair was completed in a timely manner, the fee for a set of points and a muffler was a hefty 700 bucks, establishing this as a place that clearly takes advantage of the unwary traveler. After the shock, I realized my first mistake was not asking them to calculate the fee prior to doing any work. If I would have received that courtesy, I would have selected to live with the burst muffler and only spent $300 bucks for the set of points.
            If there is any question about their motives, the touchstone that made an indelible impression occurred when I did an inspection of the work they did. During the installation of the muffler, the trailer hitch had to be removed. Although the device was bolted on prior to my visit, I discovered that the steel structure was now held on with a wire tie. Breaking a bolt and not replacing the bolt clearly establishes the caliber of integrity that takes place at this facility. Traveler beware. I had to go to another repairman with a lift that actually created and welded on a better fastening solution for an additional fee of $75. raising the total cost of the repairs.
It was naive on my part to translate the exuberance for the VW bus radiated when I arrived, as genuine regard for my well being. They are in business for one reason. They knew I was from out of town and at a disadvantage with that situation. They also knew they only had one chance to get all they could from me. If I had it to do again, I would forgo the muffler, investigate alternatives, and after finding out that the points were bad, entered into only that portion of the exchange to put me back in business. Buyer beware of Foreign Accents of Greensboro, NC


Dave Knoderer

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Wheels Through Time

Wheels Through Time

As I look into the future and review how much has changed in my life for the better, I remain open minded about all options. Last autumn, on an exploratory mission through the Carolinas, while entertaining the idea of finding a friendly place to set up shop, perhaps for extended periods of time, I found myself drawn to the Smoky Mountains. After all, the mountains are a destination for bikers. Among the places discovered was a museum in Maggie Valley called Wheels through Time. I had written the owner several years ago in regard to donating my dad’s WWII motorcycle kidney belt and a great photo of him on his Harley, but had never heard anything back. Not knowing what kind of reception to expect, I parked the rig up the street in a quiet place and walked down the road and over the bridge to the motorcycle museum.
            Next to a loud, flowing mountain stream, built against a tree covered mountainside that goes straight up, is a large metal building the size of a football field with a glass foyer attached, filled with motorcycles, artifacts and souvenirs. After paying the admission price, and entering the museum proper, I was immediately impressed with the first ancient two wheeled relic in perfect condition on display. The machine was from the era before mass production when teams of talented craftsmen built them one at a time.  The nickel plated components, spoked wheels, brass fittings, braided wires, delicate pinlines and gold leaf décor on this specimen was just the beginning of an optical feast for the senses.
            Aisle after aisle was packed with many other unusual antique motorcycles stacked almost as tight as cordwood. Unusual automobiles, service cars, boxes of related ancillary items, piles of parts for future projects filled all the rest of the available space.  Display cases had stunning collections of memorabilia and the walls were plastered with period advertising that is the result of an obvious love for the genre and years of seeking, restoring, researching and collecting.
            After several hours of marveling at the sights, I took a venture and inquired how I might meet the owner of this museum. Directed to the midst of a clump of admirers, I was delighted to find him very personable. Dale Walksler was in the middle of a group of people that expressed fascination for a particular machine and was acting as a walking library, volunteering anything major or superfluous about motorcycles. Dale would respond to any query with an abundance of specific information and often times climb on the machine to demonstrate the start up sequence, tell a story about motorcycling in the good old days, and get the old motor running so everyone can actually hear it, to establish credibility, usability and functionality with his machines.
            During a lull in the activity, I introduced myself as a pinstripe artist.
He then said, “Let me show you something” and lead me down an aisle of old motorcycles to a very old gray bike with new paint.
            “This is a 1916 Harley that we partially restored” he began in true docent manner, “and the builders’ photos show pinstriping on the frame, the top of the tank and the wheels as being how it was originally decorated.”  He then asked me if I was available to do some work. Delighted with this turn of events, I returned to my rig up the street and brought back the VW bus with my kit inside and pulled up to the service door on the west end of the building.
            The next thing I knew, the bike had been wheeled outside into the light.  I cleaned the residual oil off the entire frame, tank and rims as he retreated to dig through his archives. Soon thereafter, He found the original builders pictures, and returned to where I had set up shop outside to show them to me. After studying the photos and mixing the exact colors of paint and after sketching helpful markings on all the components to guide and insure accuracy, I began the fussy business of making precise lines on the tubes of the frame with plenty of parallel lines, right angles and the box end design elements utilized during that era, and began to duplicate the multiple color design on the top of the tank. Later, spinning the wheel and laying a thin line on either side of both rims proved to be the biggest challenge. While striping, I discovered that the line wanted to wander away from being parallel to the edge of the rim so I had to wipe off several of my attempts.
            The rim project took the greatest part of the rest of the day. I finally recruited a helper to slowly turn the wheel as I painted but was not happy with the results. I finally realized that the wheel was no longer exactly round. That was when I also realized the function of the pinline; to establish and show off the wheel wright’s skill of making an accurate wheel. Being as careful and as appropriate as possible with the out- of-round wheels, finally I had some presentable stripes on these ancient rims.
As the sun was going down, and the crowd had gone away, Dale invited me to bring my rig on the property and plug in for the night. With the crowd gone, the core group that had manned the ticket and souvenir booth, the friendly docents on the floor, the office workers all gathered, in family fashion, around a campfire. This close knit group not only shared his passion for old motorcycles but enjoyed the laid back atmosphere, the easy life, and the leisure each evening after the museum closed.  I was also invited to share the salmon that was roasting. In a rare time of sitting still, Dale sat down and we enjoyed getting to know each other.
The conversation with Dale quickly moved into a heart to heart conversation involving myriad frustrations with family, the political stresses here in this tourist mecca and the community, in which he also disclosed having an anger problem, a topic I have plenty to share about. As he shared his story, I recalled the behavior coming from my family years ago, and how I responded to their less than courteous behavior with anger, something that I regret and have outgrown now.
Among those regrets is my response to the sabotage inflicted by my brother in law for the get-together at my house, orchestrated by my sister. After buying my home near Tampa two decades ago Paula wanted to bring her family of four children and husband to visit prior to an excursion to a baseball game. Their trip from Pensacola would take all day and staying at my home would place them in proximity for the visit to the winter training camp nearby. In order to facilitate their ambition, I had to change my plans, make arrangements to sleep six in my home (also requiring me to move out and sleep in the RV), thaw the yellow tail caught in the Keys for dinner, and leave the painting workshop I was attending in Sarasota early enough to be home in time to greet them when they arrived. At the conclusion of this whirlwind of activity, at the approximate time, I was standing, waiting in the driveway for them. An hour passed. Always thinking of something else to do, I got out the leaf blower to fine tune the appearance of the garden pathways in the front yard. Two hours passed and I began to worry. In an effort to find out what had happened, I finally called my nephew to inquire where they were, and why they were delayed.
“Where are you?” I asked
“We are still at home,” he sheepishly said, “here talk to my dad”
The new voice came on the phone, “We changed our plans,” my brother in law confided.
He then added something worthless, which was typical of his unfeeling, self centeredness; “I meant to call”
This behavior coming from my brother in law was characteristic. He had never been taught courtesy, or to have regard for others and had an insatiable need to be in control all the time. He had never spoken to his wife about what he had told me about their arriving today, so Paula was in the dark.  His wife’s desire to see my place was destroyed and the compromise in my schedule to fit them in was disregarded with his passive aggression.
That family never slept in my house. I didn’t sleep that night either, I was so mad. Instead, I paced the floor filled with rage, ranted and raved like a mad man, insane with a blood vessel popping hatred for his disregard and I cussed like a sailor. All the Key West yellow tail that was thawed out was thrown out.  I never received an apology from anyone. The episode was added to the lengthy tally of discourteous behavior coming from him, and added to the experiences endured as a child, as I watched mean children pick on my older disabled brother and vowed to have as little as possible to do with anyone. I got the message that I was insignificant.  The anger came to the surface again and again every time I thought of him. When a Christmas gift came from my sister, it was thrown into a corner and ignored. My response to her efforts at being friendly was silence. This angry response to someone else’s behavior remained as a major resentment that ate away at my soul until I entered into recovery and healing. 
My experience with unhealthy anger in this realm, and having gone through an “anger management” workshop twice, placed me in a position to be helpful to my new friend.  I began to share with him what I discovered were the underlying causes of being a quick-tempered hothead with a short fuse, and once those discoveries were made, and the dynamic understood - I discovered I had a choice. It was found that my tainted decisions, delusional beliefs, selfish behaviors and inabilities to form a true partnership with another human being all contributed to the angry frustration that had gained a stronghold in my life.
What I learned in anger management was that I kept alive the shame, regret, resentment of the events that had taken place in childhood, and this perverted worship had created a corrosive thread that ran through the tapestry of my life. Discovering my responsibility in keeping anger alive and the self inflicted, contemptuous decision making that took place as a child was the beginning of my emergence from this quagmire.
Somewhere along the line, I had begun to attach importance to being right. With the help of a mentor, one by one, the events that had occurred along the way were looked at, the belief I had associated with it was revealed, a new response was considered and the truth, often times a new concept, built upon something I could not see due to my contempt, was uncovered providing relief, freeing me to discard the old belief, forgive myself and my offender, and embrace the beauty of the gift of this relational transaction with the built in lesson for my growth.
Thank goodness, instead of a knee jerk reaction to life as it occurs, built on unresolved frustrations, I discovered I can stop midstride and compose a new response. The process has been a long one and I am not successful every time (automated business phone portals still make me mad) but today I radiate much more peace when in the proximity of the dysfunction I am related to.
            I discovered that erroneous beliefs compounded by my defiant, self reliance and the inability to allow a new concept to guide me to a more accurate way of thinking had kept me stuck in corrosive beliefs that qualified as pure contempt.
            In recovery. I found others. The willingness to see joy in another, consider what that person had found that brought about the radiance in their persona, the integration of these findings and by responding with an open mind, I began to let something new inside me, and that brought about a new perspective.
            As we talked, I began to relate to how similar we were;  that the energy invested in this enterprise and the focus on acquiring more that resulted in this massive collection was perhaps, just like me; a way to avoid the quandary that was family and the frustrating relationships with others that left me wanting in their wake.
            “Hey, before you go, “he perked up, “there is another bike I want you to look at”
            Without pressing demands on my time, I had the ability to work on another bike. The next day, I wheeled my kit indoors up to the old motordrome Indian on display, paired with its old shipping road crate. The Indian logo on the tank was decrepit and Dale asked me to fix its appearance.
            Sitting there on a bucket, I hand lettered the color mixed to best replicate the ancient gold. Then with the first color complete, the logo received a thin outline of black. Sitting in the midst of the show business memorabilia, a sense of admiration grew for the many personalities, machinery and artifacts used in those productions that had a reverent place to receive honor. The rigors of the specialty, the bally-hoo, noise, thrills and excitement all have a place to be remembered here.   
            Bob, on the museum board, showed up briefly for a meeting with Dale, and was delighted that I was here. He showed me his shovelhead, recently restored, and asked me to letter his road name “quail,” and put a single color pinstripe design in green on the back fender. Back in the workshop, an area not open to the public, where the restorations take place, I moved my portable pinstriping operation into place and handled this creative task.
I disclosed my ambition to these men, of being here in the smokies to possibly find a place to set up for extended periods between events. Dale immediately invited me to set up my booth out front. The next morning as the guests arrived, they saw my pinstriping booth underneath the trees adjacent to the entrance. Soon the parking lot was full again. As usual, I sat in my booth, answered questions and worked on my projects and waited patiently for someone that wanted some decorative work on their bike. 
            During the day, Dale was a dynamo, talking to the many guests about the old motorcycles, taking his dog for a demonstration ride in the old side car machine parked out front, and multitasking with his TV show fans, souvenir hounds and visitors from all over the world.
            In passing, between the many chores and queries that commanded his attention, he mentioned that he wanted to make sure I got paid. As I sat in my booth, I worked on a couple of creative writing tasks, keeping myself busy in between handling queries from curious tourists. The second day of watching throngs arrive and go into the museum, witness the antiques that Dale fires up and rides around the parking lot and enjoying the meditative rhythm of mountain time going through it’s cycle, brought about a realization I already knew on some level, that a tourist area is tough to compete with and thrive in. I began with plans to get closer to my next event and at the end of the day, tore down and made final preparations to begin my trip north in the morning. 
            The final night I was there, a big fancy RV rig from St Louis pulled in to park in the back corner and hang out. This man shared a love for old machines and participated with Dale in cross country rides involving old motorcycles several times. I was invited to accompany the entire entourage and this special guest to a local restaurant that night. The interior of the bar and grill got even louder as tales of what happened on those cross country rides were exchanged between these boisterous men.
The big group at our table was especially fascinated with stories about filming the high speed ride of the antique road rally through all kinds of weather. We heard stories about the documentary filmmakers on special bikes with platforms for high speed camera men, and the maneuvering with daredevil behavior that resulted in incredible close-up footage of rain pelting the goggles of these riders as they rode at the highest speed these old bikes were capable of and the capturing on film of patterns of droplets coming off the wheels and fenders as they rode. The viewer could see the interesting pattern of the spray affected by the ancient aero dynamics and the picturesque scenery of the lengthy ride through several states as these determined old bikers on their even older machines proved their tenacity for truly rigorous riding. The stories finally quieted down and we dispersed from this place to our individual abodes to allow the excitement of the evening to settle down enough to allow sleep to arrive.
            The morning time found me ready to go. Dale was already a dynamo, in the midst of preparing his machinery and people for the new day.
“Dale,” I beckoned, “I’d like to get paid”
“Sure thing,” he responded, stopping mid stride. “How much do I owe you?”
Recognizing him as being a busy man, instead of recounting all the work I had done on the three bikes, I just blurted out the figure.
“Jesus Christ!” his demeanor transformed in an instant.
“You must be fucking crazy,” he shouted out loud; as he moved away from me.
He continued his high-speed pace, adding loud evidence of rage. He directed his voice across the parking lot toward his guest from St Louis coming out of his RV.
“I can’t believe it,” he shouted, “this guy wants several hundred dollars for pinstriping that old bike”
My heart sunk. I was immediately reunited with the emotion of helplessness, feelings of shame, aloneness and frustration originally encountered on the playground as a child as I witnessed the bullies at school picking on my helpless disabled older brother.  Instead of interacting with me about what is appropriate with compensation for my specialty and what was now complete on his fleet, Dale’s temper erupted further and he spouted off to everyone in his employ about my being fucking crazy. 
With my hat in my hand, I watched him rant and rave with the same focused tendency that made him great with old motorbikes. With a deep sorrow that expanded to consume my peripheral, I retreated to coil up my electric cord and get ready to go.
I cranked up the truck, sad but knowing on one hand that this emotional turbulence had nothing to do with me or the services rendered. I guessed the looming marriage of his son, the political stresses of the local business environment, and the inevitable turbulence with his family and other unresolved and unaccepted consequences of his behavior provided the real frustration and I was just the conduit for an eruption. My rig threaded its way across the bridge and onto the highway that left Maggie Valley and as I left that situation and my host of confusing extremes – warm reception and cold angry rejection – I saw myself. I had a sudden and clear realization: I saw how I must have appeared to my sister years ago in my anger at her husband’s behavior.
I hadn’t communicated to my sister in years, ever since the display of inconsideration and no follow-up from my brother in law. As I recall my response - my anger to the hurtful behavior I had received - and then followed by becoming silent, I realize the message I sent to my sister. My silence announced; “I do not care,” “I do not love you,” “my plans are more important than you,” and  “You are not important.”
Working with my mentor with these revelations, when he asked about the love I have for my sister, I broke into tears. Of course I love my sister, she was my first friend. I allowed someone else’s behavior to interfere with the regard I have. As the truth about what I learned expands to replace the devastation of the recent rejection coming from Dale, I began to look at this man with compassion, honor what he does right and begin to hope that somehow, I can arrive at peace with the rest.
What I must do is clear to me now. Instead of having to be “right,” I can choose to be happy.  Inconsistent treatment coming from others is certainly revealing, and an inappropriate focus on this quirk is sure to interfere with true happiness. Priority for me is to go find a place to be happy and productive where I also receive honorable treatment from others. Turning away from resentment for the disregard received will give me a chance to be restored to a healthy frame of mind and appreciation for what I have.
Sometimes it‘s a mystery, why particular events occur in our lives with no good reason for the upheaval and the chapter closes. Left in the void of not reacting with anger, I remain open to consider my value and how this episode may prepare me for another aspect of my life. Even the end can qualify as a new beginning.
The spark of divine is within us all. The excursion of discovery did not provide what I was originally seeking but I discovered something regardless. My response to your behavior is an indication of my spiritual condition.
Deeply moved, I enter into an intentional attempt at healing the damage I have done in response to the hurtful behavior coming from my family, with the right timing too.
“Dear Paula…”