Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Front Man

Every band needs a front man. He can sing. He's acceptable to look at. Some of them substitute a bizarre charisma for actual good looks. In any case, he has to have crowd appeal.

A bike shop is no different. The front man keeps the customers from bothering the mechanics. Ours is great. He's a true believer in modern cycling technology, so he can stand out there with a big smile and say sincerely that what he's selling is great. He can check in repairs, answer questions and turn a wrench when he gets a chance. If he doesn't get the chance he still intercepts most of the people who interrupt the flow of work through the repair shop.

As July turns into August the flow of work through the repair shop is like a swollen river full of abused bikes jamming against a bridge. We really need to keep mechanics working.

Our front man is about to take a little vacationy trip. He totally deserves it. But that means someone else has to be the front man. On his regular days off almost nothing gets done in the repair shop during the height of summer. We've learned to work around it simply by putting things off. So if you bring a bike in this week, don't expect to see it until sometime between the 13th and the 20th.

If, by chance, people suddenly stop dragging their ailing hardware in here we will be able to turn things around more quickly. A tattered sign on the wall behind some tools on the pegboard reads, "It's ready when it's RIGHT." In smaller letters it says, "or as right as you can make it." This acknowledges that for several reasons we can't always achieve perfection. But the primary goal is always solid work that won't hurt the customer or embarrass us. I can't say I like all the customers, but I absolutely hate to be embarrassed.

On the worst days I chant monotonous profanity as I try to uphold the quality standard against the insistent schedule of the vacationing enthusiast. There's no time to enjoy the challenges because each runs into the next. Then the day ends and I grind slowly out the back streets that the rich, the famous and the colorful seldom use, riding out into the countryside they never see.


Alex said...

Hi Cafiend!
That's pretty much all I wanted to say, in addition to that I've been reading your blog regularly for the past year (at least) and find your down-to-earth point of view to be not very common, and your writing entertaining as well as very good.
Keep it up, please!
I enjoy reading it every time, and it really makes a difference in my day.


cafiend said...

Alex: Wow. Thanks! I'll try to keep it going. On days when I feel like I'm just slaving in a greasy box I look at comments like this to lift my spirits.

Rantwick said...

Aren't comments like that the best? I think Alex is a potential front man. Front men in retail need to be nice, not profanity mumbling cafiends.

cafiend said...

@%#%#%$& what?

I want to get a beeper that makes the noise used to cover profanity on TV shows. Then I could just go "BEEEEP! Are you BEEPin' kidding me? How the BEEEP did you BEEP this BEEPin' thing so BEEEPin' much?" and so forth.