Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How was the Home Show? It was like most all the other Home Shows, and thank you for asking. After sitting and staring at the booth filled with granite and stone, on the other side of the aisle, Mrs. Ditchman got bored and got up, went over there and started pricing stuff out for our bathroom. Mrs. Ditchman! Get back to work so we can afford that stuff!

Some weekends of business are trial and error, others are fail and folly. This one had a smattering of all the above, for better or for worse. I had completely forgotten that I had Daddy Night at the preschool, which the Little Ditchman was really looking forward to, so I rushed home after setting up the booth without doing the quality work I usually do. It was on Mrs. Ditchman to get down there early and touch-up the paint on the new (fancy) columns on Friday morning. She ended up being an hour late, since she backed the Tundra into the fairgrounds security vehicle (no damage, no worries) and we gave up trying to make it the nicest-looking booth EVER.

Booth competition is funny. A few years back there were six or seven dealers selling aluminum patio covers, which amounted to an atmosphere of demoralized sales. We stuck it out, and now we're down to three or so competitors at this show circuit. Some time ago, we decided to one-up everyone by displaying the new! 2x3 lattice style, which never really sells, but differentiates us from the other displays. Now, everyone is showing off the 2x3 lattice, but we have upgraded to the new! square columns. They can't keep up with the Ditchmans! (Next year, hanging flat-screen tvs with slideshows of wow-tastic patio installations.) Anyway, the current hot products are fake grass and solar panels, and it's, like, every other booth. Some fake grasses are nicer than others, but all the solar panels are the same ugly. Glad I'm not in that business. Yet.

Our business seems to be getting a reputation, at least amongst the other sellers. We do the best work (!) but we're not the cheapest, and we're not the biggest operation out there either, so Mrs. Ditchman has a sophisticated technical breakdown of cost-averaging, or some such thing, which makes us competitive -she is wicked smart. And highly attractive. I installed studio lighting in our display booth that highlights and compliments her pretty hair, and the customers line right up.

My wife has many adventures at the Home Shows, while I am home herding our offspring. On Saturday, she was pulling in to the fairgrounds and noticed one of our aluma-shade competitors in the parking lot. The way she tells it, he threw his truck into reverse for no apparent reason and crashed into the guy behind him. (I guess this would be called a front-end collision.) Later, she met up with Dr. Fix-It and went on the air on KCBQ to say how bitchin' and affordable our aluminum patio covers were. She texted me: Did you hear me on Dr. Fix-It? But I don't sit around and listen to the radio all weekend, so, No. This is the second time she's messed around on the radio, silly girl, hawking goods over the airwaves. (Meanwhile, who's manning the booth?) If we sell a single job from that, we're going back on KCBQ and buying ad time.

I ran into Dr. Fix-It later. No, really. On Sunday I drove down with the kiddies to meet her, and tear down our booth after the show was over. I found a great parking space behind a large truck right near the entrance, and while pulling into the space I rear-ended the guy -tapping his tow hitch and bending our license plate. The truck's owner was standing right there, and he had witnessed the whole thing. I warily got out of the car as he approached me. He took one look at me (or, perhaps, my shirt) and asked, "Are you Marci's husband?" to which I admitted so. He held out his hand and introduced himself.

"Dr. Fix-It," he said.

Nice guy. He wasn't worried about the damage, said it happens all the time, and, since he was Dr. Fix-It, it was assumed he could have managed the repairs himself. He said my wife was great on the radio, and I told him this came as no surprise to me. We chatted for a bit and I went into the big hall and did my part, shelling out five bucks for a bad domestic beer in a plastic cup and then tearing our whole cover down and loading up the Tundra. At one point, Mrs. Ditchman's name was announced over the fairgrounds P.A. system because she had won movie tickets from Dr. Fix-It. In the end, we celebrated with Pizza Port as we often do after the Home Shows. I forgot my wallet, so I couldn't refill my growler with the Poche Pale, (Grrrr.)

Did we sell any jobs? Is the economy rebounding? Are we back in business? Will we be able to live in Oceanside and tell the story for another few months? Will I live another day to drink a better beer? Time will reveal all. For now, we tighten our belts and fend off bankruptcy and foreclosure for another season, thankful that this weekend's accidents were little more then dentless, painless anecdotes to another humdrum work detail.