I talked to an industry colleague today who had left the fenestration industry to take a job in the decking industry. When he left us, I was sad to see him go. We had grown up together in the industry and had seen each other at numerous industry functions.

Recently, I found out that he is back in the fenestration industry, having been gone less than a year. So, yesterday, I called him with great excitement and exclaimed, “Sal…you’re back!” He laughed and said, “Jimmy, we both know that when it comes to the window industry, you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave!”

This is so true, and I have said this for many years. Once you join the door and window industry, you can never leave. It gets in your blood. You may try to leave, but you will end up popping back up working for some other fenestration related business. It’s downright comical.

I, too, tried leaving the fenestration industry once. It lasted less than two years. I went to work for a company making industrial absorbents used for hazmat, first response and industrial cleanup. By the time I returned to the industry, I had missed only several of the AAMA meetings that I had previously been attending. I couldn’t wait to get to the next one, and when I did, it was like I had never even left. They passed around the minutes from the last meeting and with a big smile on my face, I instantly recognized familiar issues. I started discussing matters as though I had never been gone. I hardly missed a beat.

So, what is it about the fenestration industry that is so addictive?

One, the knowledge that one acquires regarding doors and windows becomes your second language. It gets in your blood almost like oxygen and livens your spirit. This language is unique to our industry, and learning it makes you part of the culture. Nowhere else does low-E, U-value, shading coefficient, air infiltration, argon gas permeation and DP Ratings have much meaning except in the fenestration industry. Locks, balances, vent locks, single- and dual-point mortise locks, patio door handles, tie bar systems, dual -rm operators, split arm operators, egress hinges — the list of parts goes on and on. Also, allowable tolerances are unique to our industry. Try taking a window engineer to work in the aerospace industry. He or she would have quite an adjustment to make. For even more of a cultural shift, try taking an aerospace engineer and giving him a job in a window company. If you are an engineer, you will know exactly what I mean.

Two, the friendships you acquire with colleagues are true – and last a lifetime. As I said in a recent blog about Mark Toth, even when friends become competitors, the friendship never wanes. Friendship and mutual respect endure. The common knowledge and challenges that working in the window industry present become a common language. Industry friends grow in this knowledge together. Industry events and trade shows bring us together, and we really look forward to seeing each other and sharing experiences.

Third, working in the window industry is just plain fun. Doors and windows are portals to the world around us. Windows allow us to see the beauty outside while enjoying the comfort and security of our dwellings. Doors are two-way portals, allowing us to enter the privacy, intimacy and security of our home while also allowing us to pass the other way into the expansiveness, adventure and beauty that the outside world has to offer.

At the end of each day, we see loads of doors and windows loaded onto trucks and sent off to customers. I often hear the remark, “Where do they all go?” Well, can anyone even imagine a world without doors and windows?

If you are part of this industry, you simply cannot. This is the reason why you can “check out anytime you like but you can never leave.”

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