Set Off

Every four-letter word Shop Boy knows, he learned from his mother.

Which is kind of funny, based on her late-in-life disassociation with any sort of rough or racy language. She wouldn’t go near a movie that she guessed had lots of harsh dialogue. “I don’t need to hear that,” Mom would say.

Certainly, she’d heard it all before. Mom was an emergency room nurse, so she ran with a pretty tough crowd. Doctors give R.N.s lots of garbage, and the life-and-death atmosphere of the ER creates an enormous amount of tension. But the nurses can’t let patients see their anger and frustration. (At least they shouldn’t.) So, they take it outside, where they smoke, fume and — oh, you betcha — swear their heads off.

As the third anniversary of Mom’s death arrives this week, I can think of a few sets of ears that are probably still red over her own rough — never racy — dialogue from those earlier days. She picked her spots, but she could really bring the noise.

Shop Boy’s been thinking about her a lot lately. And one of the weird things that struck me is how much more I curse than she ever did, even in her hey (@#$%&*!) day. I mean, Shop Boy doesn’t curse in this blog and gets the point across, right? OK, sometimes. Geez. Work with me here.

Anyway, maybe that was Mom’s secret: She knew that an unexpected F-bomb can have the impact of 25 while 25 F-bombs in the span of, say, 50 words just get you tuned out. So Shop Boy’s been trying to cool it a bit.

Which brings us to last Sunday night.

We got a call that Woodberry Kitchen, a local restaurant that Typecast Press does printing for — you can’t get a reservation these days (we like to think we played a small role in that, of course) — needed a fresh supply of menus. With all the changes that the chef, Spike Gjerde, makes to match the seasonal availability of stuff, the restaurant churns through a lot of menus. We letterpress the shell, and Mary has set up Spike’s co-owner and wife Amy with a file for changing the lineup. Then Amy runs the menus through a huge copier.

Well, you know how it goes. The restaurant gets popular, you’re running around refreshing the food, linen, flatware and booze supplies and you forget to check the stock of menus. Then Spike has a brainstorm. Uh-oh.

This time, I decided to really crank out a ton of extra menus so we could hold a bunch back for just such emergencies. We’d cut paper for about 900, so that sounded about right. The big Chandler & Price clamshell does a nice job on them, but of course it’s hand-fed. At two colors and at a rate of about 300 an hour (the menus are 12″x12″ and a little bit slick, so why rush it?), that’s about six hours of lift-bend-lift-turn-repeat. But Shop Boy was determined.

At one point, Mary walked into the studio, examined an enormous pile of drying menus and asked if maybe Shop Boy should take a break. No way!

“God, Shop Boy, you are so goal-oriented,” she huffed.

Which is probably why God and Shop Boy end up being mentioned in the same sentence. I’m just saying …

Ahem.

Well, just as Shop Boy was patting himself on the back — whoops! Misfeed. A sheet of paper jumped the guide and fell beneath the press and, quicker than you can say “fiddlesticks,” the tympan had black ink all over it. Good golly, if you’ve ever inked the tympan, the waxy paper that holds your guides and the sheets of packing that you use to adjust impression depth, you know what’s next.

Phooeey! Or to be more precise …

@#*$%&*$%#@, @#*$%&*$%#@-ING @##$*%*#@$-ER!

Yes, it means an offset — a shadow on the back side of every darn thing you print from here to infinity. All right, not quite that long. Your only choice is to get it off there. With black ink, that’s easier said than done. We don’t like using press wash to clear it, as that’s not real good for you or the environment, can also stain future pieces of paper, takes a while to dry completely and the moisture can change the depth of your packing after you’ve spent all that time getting it just so.

Instead, we buff it off with a rag. A total pain.

At that moment, Shop Boy was so mad at himself for losing his concentration that he could have put his head in the machine and turned it on.

I swear …

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