Letterpress List No. 43: All Systems Gone

At newspapers, we called it The Morgue. It was the place where published articles, photos and the like were stored for all eternity, or at least until we needed another look at them. Somehow it became a verb: to “morgue” something meant to file a copy of it away.

At the printshop, we simply call it a galley cabinet, the place where trays holding previously used plates, dies and type reside. The trays are numbered so that you can keep track of what’s stored where.

Pretty simple, eh?

It was, when Typecast Press was just starting out. Shop Boy had cleaned the trays and the dusty insides of the first galley cabinet we’d claimed from an old printshop that was dumping its letterpress stuff. We inserted the trays in order, No. 1 to No. 100, drew up a sheet of paper with Nos. 1 to 50 on it, hung it on a clipboard beside the cabinet and waited hopefully for jobs to roll in.

You know the feeling, right? Will this letterpress thing work? Will we ever get to Job No. 10? (Never mind No. 100.)

Well, we did pretty quickly. Soon, we needed another galley cabinet. Cool, right?

So why was Mary cursing, pulling out tray after tray, then slamming each one back into the cabinet? Because she couldn’t find the polymer plate for a restaurant gift card that had been reordered. The first run was about a year ago.

Oh, and about five systems ago, too.

True story: Mary was leaving a job in Denver, where she did design and PR for the Colorado Endowment for the Humanities. She was conscientiously cleaning up behind herself, trying to make sure that the person who replaced her would be able to navigate the nonprofit’s files.

It was late at night — isn’t it always? That part of Denver, LoDo, is now one of the glitziest parts of town. Back then, it wasn’t too cool a spot to be walking around alone late at night. So if Mary was working late, Shop Boy was going to be there. The hero type. That’s me.

So … sometime just before sunrise, Shop Boy was sprawled half-dozing atop a conference table. (There wasn’t a comfy chair in the place.) Mary had spread out on the floor before her an entire filing cabinet worth of photos. She was stumped. How in the world was she supposed to file all this: photos of events, places, people, you name it.

Desperate, she called her sister (a two-hour time difference meant Melissa was already awake for the day) and explained her plight.

Mary: “What should I do? I have no idea how to file all this crazy stuff!”

Melissa (deadpan): “How about alphabetically?

Shop Boy nearly rolled off the table. Soon we were all howling.

Now, Mary’s got a keen mind. She might not know exactly where something is right this second, but she sure can find it in a flash — as long as you don’t move her stacks. She’s just not real good with actual organization. (She learned this from her mom, also Mary Mashburn, the original queen of piles.) When in doubt, Mary invents a new system. After a while, it becomes sort of like spaghetti.

And now, the plate storage “system” was mocking her.

After a while, Shop Boy shooed Mary away from the trays, figuring they’d been slammed enough, and found the needle in the haystack by pure, dumb luck.

That’s my system, and I’m sticking to it.


“There’s got to be a better way to organize this, Shop Boy. What if we … ?”

Shop Boy heard her out, then offered as how perhaps we should morgue her latest system plan. Not for all eternity, perhaps. But at least until we sort out what killed the last one.


Letterpress List No. 43

How about an hour’s worth of music to, oh, I don’t know, alphabetize your files — or CD collection — by? Most of the tunes should be available in the usual places. Goofy and great video links are to YouTube.

ABC the Jackson 5 (Time travel.)
Lose Yourself Eminem (Carpe diem, or something.)
PhotographDef Leppard (Mary’d file this one under “E” for “English guys in tight pants.”)
The Search Is OverSurvivor (Under “L” for lame.)
Where It’s At Beck (He can always find his “weird” button.)
Comfortably NumbPink Floyd (Nowadays, Shop Boy’s a little more prepared.)
Angry Chair Alice in Chains (Not very comfy either. ;-) )
You Get Me LostFreedy Johnston (Doesn’t take much.)
Lost in the Supermarketthe Clash (Shop Boy’s lament — the grocery list as a treasure map.)
Your Number Is OneRollins Band (Looking high, looking low.)
Mary, MaryRun-DMC (Why ya bugging?)
SlamOnyx (Trays feel no pain.)
Finders Keepers, Losers WeepersElvis Presley (So true.)
Gone Daddy GoneGnarls Barkley (Fun update on a Violent Femmes song.)
I’m a Mess — the Murmers (Been there.)
Somewhere Out ThereLinda Ronstadt and James Ingram (OK, Shop Boy’s lost it.)
*&%$ the SystemSystem of a Down (Mary hates the band, but can embrace the notion.)

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