Of Mattresses and Potatoes:

By Lyle R. Hill

I’m not sure exactly when it all started, but if I had to guess, I would say about eight years ago. I refer here to the e-mails I regularly receive from one particularly un-usual glass industry character who shall not go nameless. They began innocently enough but, as the years went by, they seemed to take a bit of a sinister twist. Then the e-mails started getting longer and arriving more frequently. They also started to develop a threatening tone of sorts and that bothered me. Actually, it bothered me quite a bit.

I get lots of e-mails each year and most of them are enjoyable. Naturally, I get the occasional negative one wherein I am called an “idiot” … or worse … but that’s okay, too. I don’t pretend to be right all of the time and sometimes I think the title of “idiot” just might be appropriate. But I certainly don’t like to be threated and when I am, I feel that I have to take defensive action … and sometimes offensive measures are appropriate as well.

But let me now be a little more di-rect. I have, over the past couple of years, been criticized, verbally at-tacked and threatened, yes threatened (via e-mail) by one Mario Ercolini (allegedly now retired from Whole-sale Glass Distributors … so maybe he has too much time on his hands), and I am taking the threats very se-riously. He also stalked me at an Auto Glass Week™ show last year and it made me quite nervous. Perhaps Ercolini was right in telling me that I have not been outspoken enough about the lack of proper training for our industry. His most recent e-mail to me about the need for us to work with the next generation of indus-try leaders on their communication skills was well-founded. However, it’s not my place to solve all of the indus-try’s problems; I can’t even solve all of my own problems. I’m only one guy, and an old guy at that. And while I have promised to try to get into all of this in the future, I do have to say that Ercolini is a pretty good writer so if he thinks he knows the answers to today’s concerns then maybe he should petition for some column space of his own and leave me alone.

In his most recent diatribe, Er-colini told me an interesting story about his encounter with a seemingly talented young man who lacked direction and purpose. He also talked about what our schools are not doing to train tomorrow’s workforce. His comment to me about how many of today’s young people can’t look you in the eye when they are speaking to you and how they lack poise and practical knowledge was rather accurate, too. He’s often right, but I just don’t appreciate his threating tone. In a recent e-mail to me he inferred that his family, currently congregating in Chicago, knows where I live and if I don’t get my act together I could soon be visited by them.

This immediately conjured up in my mind that scene in the Godfather movie where they have “gone to the mattresses.” This particular scene shows a bunch of mobsters sitting at the kitchen table while another guy is playing the piano and a giant pot of spaghetti, being attended to by yet another thug, is cooking on the stove. I read the book (by Mario Puzo initially published in 1969) and I’ve seen the movie (released in 1972 with Marlon Brando in the title role) a couple of times. Those Italian guys were tough and when they “went to the mattresses” it meant they were all moving in together (congregating) for all-out war on their enemies. And for the past few weeks I couldn’t get that scene out of my mind. But let it be known, Ercolini, that we Irish guys are no pushovers and we have family, too. While you’re going to the “mattresses” and cooking spaghetti, we’re “going to the potatoes.” Picture in your mind, Mr. Mario Ercolini, a bunch of tough-looking Irish boys sitting at the kitchen table playing Parcheesi, while another Irish thug plays the fiddle and yet an-other is cookin’ up the potatoes … baked, fried, mashed and boiled. I want you to think real hard about that scene, Ercolini, and maybe then you’ll back off. You see, when the Irish lads “go to the potatoes” it’s serious business.

Okay … enough for now. I could go on for a while, but all of this talk about potatoes has made me really hungry. And the spuds … yes the spuds … are a callin’. Watch out!

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