The Grandfather Clock

By Lyle Hill

Is there anything more intriguing than the ring of a telephone? I mean, just think about who it is that might be reaching out to you … a friend, a relative, maybe a customer, or somebody who owes you money and wants to pay you. C’mon, you have to admit, the opportunities are endless. So on this particular day, I answered mine just as it started to ring for the second time. I offered up my usual salutation and waited for the caller to begin speaking.

“Thank you for answering my call Mr. Hill. My name is Rich Ferranti and I’m a longtime reader of your columns in USGlass magazine. I was hoping you might give me a minute of your time.”

Wow, a long-time reader. Those are extremely rare so of course I’m going to have time for him. I live for these calls.

“Sure Rich, what can I do for you today? And please … call me Lyle”

“Well Lyle, do you remember the column you wrote a few months back when you used an e-mail exchange between you and a guy named Joe Hill from New York? I think his company was named ‘The Shower Door’ or something like that. The column was actually a series of e-mails that went back and forth between you and him.”

At first I had no idea what this guy was talking about but all of sudden it started to come to me. It had to do with what Joe Hill referred to as the “Energy Surcharge Shake Down Fiasco.” But why was this guy bringing it up again now? After all, that column was written over a year ago.

“Yes, Rich, I do remember that column. As I recall, this Joe Hill guy, who is not related to me, had expressed his disappointment with me over not being able to fix an industry problem and I think somehow he thought it was somehow my fault. Is that what you’re referring to, Rich?”

“Lyle, that’s exactly what I am referring to. You see, Joe Hill is not the only reader disappointed in you. There are a lot of us and we talk among ourselves. And some of us do blame you for not getting it fixed.”

I could tell by the tone of his voice that this Ferranti guy was a little upset. But gee, I have no control over anything. Sure I think, as do a lot of people, that the energy surcharge thing is a sham. After all, when it first came out it was supposedly due to the sudden spikes that had occurred in gasoline and natural gas prices. We were told it was temporary. But long after gasoline and natural gas prices hit all-time lows, we still have the stupid surcharge deal. In reality, that number should be zero or maybe even a credit, but it still persists in most cases. It’s phony, but I am not able to change it. I mean. What do these readers expect of me?

“Hey Rich, have I ever told you my grandfather clock story?”

“Is it a long story, Lyle? Sometimes you have a tendency to ramble on and on about nothing and I’m a bit busy today.”

A couple of Christmases ago, my daughter Amy gave me a plaque which hangs on my office wall that reads … “You know you’re really Irish when you have absolutely no idea how to make a long story short.”

So I was neither surprised nor offended by his remark.

“I’ll try to keep it short for you, Rich.”

“Much appreciated, Lyle.”

“When I was about 10 years old, my father inherited an old grandfather’s clock from one of my uncles who had moved into a nursing home. It wasn’t a particularly attractive clock, but my dad wanted to keep it and use it in honor of his brother. So it got set up in the small hallway of our house between the living room and dining room.”

“Lyle, you do remember that we are talking about the surcharge thing, right?”

“Yes I do … stay with me. So, the grandfather clock would chime out the hours and this means that twice a day, you heard 12 chimes and on the other hours, the appropriate number of chimes would ring out. It also chimed once on every half hour. If you do the math, this means that the chime rang a total of 180 times every day.”

“Lyle, I really am pretty busy so is this story almost over?”

“Yes it is … So after we got this grandfather clock, it drove me crazy … especially at night. I couldn’t sleep because I was either hearing the chimes in the middle of the night or I was lying in bed waiting for them to go off. Then I would listen to see what time it was. It was the worst thing that had happened in my life thus far. Of course I had not yet been introduced to the glass industry.”

“Lyle, you’ve lost me. What does this have to do with what we’re talking about?”

I could tell that Rich was losing patience with me but being the Irish guy that I am, I plodded onward.

“Okay, so about seven or eight months after we got this clock thingy, a couple of my cousins came through town and stayed with us for a long weekend. One of my cousins slept on the floor between the twin beds my brother and I slept in. The first night he was there, he woke up screaming about an hour after we had gone to sleep. When I asked him what was wrong, he said the crazy clanging sounds were driving him nuts. I then replied to him with ‘what clanging sounds?’ I didn’t hear anything. I had become used to them. They had simply become a part of life for me and no longer stood out as an annoyance.”

“I think I see what you’re trying to say, Lyle, although I don’t know that I needed to hear this story to get there. What you’re saying is that this surcharge has now been around long enough that it is an accepted part of our business life. A stupid thing maybe, but kind of ‘just the way it is.’ Is that it?”

“Yes Rich. That’s pretty much it. It’s not going away so you and Joe Hill and everyone else might as well accept it. As obnoxious as it is, if you accept it for what it is, in just a little while you won’t even know it’s there. Seems like that’s what most everyone else has done. In fact, Rich, I have another story for you that I think might help you. It goes something like this. There were these three brothers and … …”


“Rich, are you still there? Rich. Hmmm … must have gotten disconnected.”

Lyle Hill is the managing director of Keytech North America, a company providing research and technical services for the glass and metal industry. He also serves as president of, an information portal and job generation company for the glass industry. Hill has more than 50 years’ experience in the glass and metal industry and can be reached at

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