Friday, June 19, 2009

Father's Day 1972 Revisited, Part 20: This Way to Paradise

By the spring of 1972 I had given up hope of ever making a career as a Fuller Brush salesman. As an alternative, I'd landed a job doing something I had more experience with: working with fiberglass. I found an entry level job at the Corl Corporation factory in Riverside. At first I was just a "finisher," wet-sanding and machine buffing fiberglass tub-shower units to eliminate imperfections left from the manufacturing process. These tub-shower units were mostly sold to mobile home manufacturers. Fiberglass finishing was miserable and unrewarding work, often spent on one's knees or bending in awkward, unnatural positions in order to get at the spot which needed sanding or other attention. In addition, after hours of sanding, the very fine-grit sandpaper we used would wear right through your fingertips until they oozed blood. I soon figured out why all the experienced finishers had their fingers wrapped in masking tape. I found the work tedious in the extreme and the hours dragged until my lunch break when--glorious retreat--Cher would come with a friend and we would have a sweet half-hour to visit with each other. Then I'd reluctantly force myself back to the drudgery and a seeming eternity until the final whistle blew signaling the end of my tortuously long shift.

Within a couple of months I was promoted to a much better position. I would now be one of the company's two fiberglass repair reps who would be sent to repair products in the field. These were shower units which were flawed or had been damaged in some way during installation. I had a company pick-up truck to use in which I carried a complete fiberglass repair and refinishing kit. I also had a company credit card and a small expense account. The mobile homes in which our products were installed would wind up in parks all over California as well as in the various states of the southwest. I was usually sent out to do a week-long loop. I would be sent to the repair order which was farthest away and then make repair calls as I headed back to Riverside. I liked the variety of work and the road trips to various states. My boss would give me my upcoming repair trip by telling me the the farthest city on my itinerary.

"You are going to Paradise," my boss told me one Monday morning. I was a bit unsure whether he might be joking around. "Excuse me, what did you say?" I replied. "I said I'm sending you to Paradise" he said with a bit of a smirk, emphasizing the word Paradise. "C'mon," I said, "What's the deal? Where am I really going?" "O.K, here's the deal: you are going to Paradise--Paradise California--to do a repair up there and then I have a few more for you as you come back down." I still wasn't sure he wasn't pulling my leg until he showed it to me on the map. There it was, right up at the top of the state, near Chico. This conversation struck me as particularly odd, especially since I'd been reading the New testament for several months and had begun to wonder about whether there really could be other "dimensions" to our existence or other facets of reality beyond the purely physical world of material objects. "So," I thought, "I going up to Paradise--wait until Cher hears about this!"

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