Stuck on You

It was looking like a Valentine’s Day massacre.

Mary had been under the weather and Typecast Press was in a bind. In one day, we needed to print two sets of two-color business cards and produce an emergency order for two-color restaurant menus and coasters. Oh, and Mary had designed two Valentines that needed to be finished … any second!

A crew less accustomed to, um, working on deadline (Mary, Mary, Mary …) might have come unglued. Instead, Shop Boy employed his own time-tested formula, which he discusses in his new book Duress Is Success Spelled Differently: When Now Means NOW! Look for it in better bookstores on … oh, heck. I haven’t written it yet. The deadline is so far off.

Here are the basics.

  • Step 1: Panic (gets it out of the way so you can focus on the task)
  • Step 2: Panic more (just to make sure it took)
  • Step 3: Doubt yourself
  • Step 4: Swear and/or cry; berate yourself for past mistakes in similar situations or for self-inflicted, um, physical imperfections
  • Step 5: Wallow in self-pity
  • Step 6: Issue the Universal Distress Signal
  • Step 7: Wait for someone (Mary!) to jump in and figure it all out
  • Step 8: Most importantly … be grateful and do whatever that someone says.

Piece of cake, right?

OK, so if Shop Boy takes a day off from his day job, and we get up early, and Mary’s feeling a lot better, and we skip meals, and we don’t talk too much, and we play peppy music, and everything breaks just right, and we don’t need to do much make-ready and the weather cooperates …

So we overslept, needed to stop for breakfast, Mary (still a bit fuzzy-headed) had an important lunch date, we always talk too much, there was too much Lucinda Williams on the iPod (love ya, kid, but lighten up!) and suddenly not a single polymer plate would stick to the Boxcar base for the big C&P. Each one had to be massaged endlessly. At one point, Shop Boy suggested we just add pressure to force the issue. (We smashed the plate and had to start over.)

Man, you think you know somebody — or something — and you’re thrown a new wrinkle. In the case of polymer plates, we’ve been the most faithful disciples, spreading the word about how perfect they are. Easier to use than magnesium- or copper-on-wood plates. Cheaper! Take zero space to store. Harder than metal.

Well, they also tend to bend up at the corners between uses, even if you store them carefully. And if those corners refuse to stick to the steel base — no matter how much you plead, press, tape and re-tape them — they keep poking up, touching the rollers, picking up ink and ruining whatever you’re printing. Metal-on-wood plates never do that. (They’re awesome!)

And just like that, something you know to be absolutely so … ain’t necessarily so.

True story: Mary and Shop Boy were camping in New York State, our first such trip together. Mary had been well trained by her dad, Wayne, a seasoned camper and ex-military guy, to assume the role of princess in these situations. So, Shop Boy set about putting up the tent, digging the trench (in case of rain) and unloading the supplies. Mary sat, sipped wine and judged my progress as we went along.

Now it was time to build the fire, a personal specialty. See, where Shop Boy’s from, you build the bonfire, with rocks atop the flames, then use the hot stones to bake lobsters, clams, corn, bluefish, potatoes, etc. We had chicken, but same deal, right? So Shop Boy built a pyramid of wood and stone — you should have seen it — and struck a match. Sweet. Nothing like a fire to cut the cool of an autumn evening. Appropriately impressed, Mary kissed me. And the fireworks went off.

No, really. The super-heated rocks, obviously not made of the same stuff as we had at the beach, began to explode, shelling us with hot chunks as we scrambled for cover, screaming and laughing as we tumbled toward the truck. We cowered behind it as the explosions continued for a good 15 minutes. It was 30 minutes before Shop Boy dared approach the fire pit to clear any unexploded ordnance.

Mary probably should have run in the other direction at this point. Instead, she hugged me and we laughed and laughed. That night, I realized it had to be love. Awwww.

Wait. Where were we? Oh, no love from the polymer plates. Well, all Shop Boy can say is it’s a darn good thing Mary has no respect for the clock. We were going to get this done. Ha! She laughs in the face of 1:30 a.m. Oh, and did I mention the freezing rain? We didn’t even start chiseling the car out of the ice block till then.

Shop Boy, who has a 6 a.m. wakeup call on non-printshop workdays, is a bit less relaxed about keeping late hours.

Oh, well. In for a penny, in for a pounding.


You’ve got to love Valentine’s Day.

A guy sweats all year long to prove his devotion, then drops the ball for one day and it’s all for nothing. But there isn’t a woman Shop Boy would rather disappoint every year than Mary.

Be mine, kitten.

Of course, Mary and Shop Boy will be celebrating a day late — after making the deadline — to keep the disappointment among other valentines to a minimum.

Enjoy the fireworks!

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