Or: Don’t knock the young-‘uns, Part 2
I’ve had my 12” Crescent jointer since the mid-1990s, when I bought the then-nonagenarian piece of equipment from a woman who had decided to quit furniture making. It’s a workhorse of a machine. At some point in the 1980s or ‘90s* it had been fitted with a hotbox for use in shops without three-phase power, but every so often the hotbox flakes out and I have to call for help because I am a coward when it comes to electricity. Blame it on the time I stupidly stuck a screwdriver in a 230-Volt outlet in England when I was 20. Let’s just say it was a bracing experience.
This week I had the Crescent checked out by Isaiah Merriman of Bloomington Heating, Cooling and Electrical. Isaiah is a son of the business owner, Kevin Merriman, my go-to electrician since he came to my (now-former) house to write up an estimate for electrical and HVAC work on the day of my real estate closing in the summer of 1995. Over the years, Kevin would come to work on the furnace or add a receptacle with a child or two in tow; I remember meeting Isaiah when he was a boy of 4 or 5 being scolded for lagging behind with a bucket of tools.
The last time I called, Isaiah was the electrician they sent out. I was surprised; I hadn’t even known he was part of the business, now that he’s an adult. He got straight to work and quickly diagnosed the problem. He was polite, professional and clearly knew what he was doing. It’s always gratifying to see competence, and especially so in members of a family business’s second generation.
What made Isaiah even more intriguing to me was the route he took to where he is today. After growing up working with his father, he studied finance at Indiana University’s Kelley School. From there he went to work in the Indianapolis office of Charles Schwab, where he became a senior manager over teams of stock brokers. He held that position for eight years.
With a growing family, Isaiah and his wife decided to move to Bloomington in 2018. He missed the town and knew it was a good place to raise kids. Although he could have applied for a job as a financial adviser at a branch of Charles Schwab, he chose to return to electrical work and became a partner in the family business. “Most clients have financial goals they are hoping to accomplish over many years (like saving for retirement),” he says. This “contrasts with the gratification that comes with the electrical trade,” in which he gets to experience the joy of seeing work come together every day. “You don’t have to imagine it. It’s right in front of you. To do this work or to do investment work, you have to have an analytical mind. You have to be able to see the little details and the big picture at the same time.”
It was especially sweet when he added “Amazon can’t deliver me.”
Once he’d diagnosed the problem, he called the office to order replacement parts. I surfaced a bunch of boards while he was on the phone, knowing he’d be able to resuscitate the motor if needed. I’m happy that my century-old jointer now has a Millennial caretaker.