By now, if you’re on social media in the wood flooring groups, you probably know me—maybe you’ve had a good interaction with me on social media, probably at some point you haven’t. I’ve probably regaled and annoyed you with tales of growing up on a large commercial bowling lane refinishing crew, traveling the country with seasonal drifters, skipping school to go on work trips with my father and causing endless trouble. Maybe we’ve had some sort of technical argument, specifically one about electrical hookups, in which I’ve been unwavering. Maybe you’ve even hit me with my trigger phrase, “Been doing it that way for 35 years” ... it’s always 35 years. That’s the point you get to where you know everything you need to know.
But this story is not about me, it’s a cautionary tale about my father, Mark Haas. I can’t get into this without explaining a bit about my old man. He was highly motivated, supremely intelligent and well-liked among his peers (even his competitors). In 1976, he bought into and made what would be one of the largest commercial flooring operations in history. At times we’d have something like 100 people working and would be sanding 8,000–10,000 square feet a day. My father was an early adopter of and innovator in some of the finishes and techniques a lot of us now take for granted.
In 2010 my father had bypass surgery, and during surgery he had a minor stroke. He was largely fine, but some of his faculties and coordination had slipped, although this was something I didn’t really notice until much later. He missed a year or so of work, and when he came back we’d taken to doing some things a little differently than before. Everything he’d find different he’d harass us about how he’d “been doing it that way for 35 years!”
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Flash forward to 2015: I’m working as a facilities tech for a large company, and my father is a contractor doing refinishing work for said company. I get a call around 7 a.m. from my boss explaining that my father had been electrocuted the night before while trying to clamp into a circuit breaker panel to get power—a panel he’d probably hooked into 50 times before. I call my father to see how he’s doing, and he says he’s okay.
The next night around midnight I got a call from my boss again. This time my father had gone into the same panel and shorted his gator clips across what he’d assumed was a plastic liner that was actually steel. His hand had been on the panel, and he’d taken a rather bad shock. He was taken to the hospital with symptoms of pneumonia (strange), and when he was cleared to leave, I had to drive 10 hours round trip in the middle of the night to pick him up.
Less than a week later I came home from work to find my father in his bedroom surrounded by unit heaters, and I suggested he take a ride with me to the hospital. When I helped him up, his hands were ice cold. He passed out on the way to the hospital and arrived with no pulse. He had a lethal potassium level because his kidneys had stopped functioning—a result of the shock.
My father spent a very limited amount of time home with us after that before suffering a massive, debilitating stroke the day before Thanksgiving that left him in a nursing home the remainder of his life. He exhausted his resources and left the remainder of his family with nothing to show for years of hard work.
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I’ve been asked to write this article many times, and the most recent time I sat down and tried to write it was in the middle of June 2022, when I was unable to finish it after going to sit with my dad during his final moments.
Was my father ultimately killed by the electric shock he sustained? I’ll probably never know. My father had a whole host of health issues in the final years of his life. Do I think this incident jump-started (yep, pun intended) his decline? Absolutely.
I talk about a lot of the “old tech” we used: tricks I learned from my father and his associates, tips I’d gotten over the years. A lot of this information I recycle in the private messages I get daily. My father’s chronic need for improvement in his early years is one of the driving forces behind why I’m always pursuing a better solution to a problem.
My father died young, and he isn’t around to get the credit I feel he deserves for being an innovator in the wood flooring industry in his prime. But maybe he can get credit for this:
- Cut the alligator clips off your cords. Get and learn how to install some circuit breakers.
- Class-00 Lineman gloves are $60 on Amazon and could save your life.
- Those gloves expire every six months, so put them on a reorder.
- Don’t encourage young entrepreneurs to make shoddy electrical hookups because you’ve “been doing it that way for 35 years.”