Helping Hands

This teaching gig of Mary’s is going to pay off handsomely.

For Typecast Press interns from here on out, I mean.

Oh, not that it’s been pure hell up until now to serve as an intern for Typecast Press. But you know how it is. You agree to feed and shelter college kids — or keep them off the streets, anyway — in return for their unquestioning servitude. It’s a great chance for them to learn by doing, to watch a master of the craft doing things the right way, to soak up knowledge not available anywhere else at any price. And you get free labor. Awesome deal, right?

Then they show up, all eager and stuff, on the worst possible day of the worst possible week and …

“Oh, um, well, you can, uh, maybe make those thingies over there into a neat pile. Then you can, um … yeah, clean that stuff. It’s sorta dusty. I’ll be done in just an hour … or two, tops.”

You feel lousy about it, and you look a bit incompetent to be honest. But a deadline’s a deadline.

Soon the intern’s antsy for some real work and getting in the way of yours with curiosity, questions and … needs. You could throw up your hands, give in and offer the kid your full attention (deciding you’ll make up for the lost productivity by staying late into the evening).

You could send the intern away with apologies and a promise of a much better work session next time … or the time after that, tops.

Or, you could call the “Intern Whisperer.”

You might know him as Shop Boy.


Shop Boy has had great luck solving the intern dilemmas that arise by the very nature of the arrangement (not unique to the printshop). You’ve got work to do, fast, and boy would it be great to have an extra pair of hands around. Of course, it takes time to train that pair of hands to be helpful, which can be slow and frustrating. You could have done whatever it is that you’re doing in half the time if you hadn’t had to teach somebody else to do it. And you would have gotten it right the first time. Soon, you’re thinking of interns not as a big help but rather as a big pain in the rear end!

It’s OK … it’s OK. I’m here.

Honestly, Shop Boy seems to have a way with interns, hence Mary’s sarcastic new nickname for me. Intimidated, disappointed or perhaps a bit at a loss over the clear impression that you sometimes wish they’d get lost, interns can become oddly timid. Unsure of themselves. Quiet. They’re not like this  among their too cool for art school peers, you can bet.

I don’t know what it is.

Actually, I do know what it is: Mary scares the bejeepers out of them. Scares the heck out of me too sometimes.


Oh, she can be a bit direct, sure. But mostly, it’s just hugely intimidating to try to keep up with Mary, so demanding of herself that you can’t help making yourself nuts, and mess up, trying to live up to her standards.

I stumbled upon one intern (no names) as she stood, hands trembling, and haltingly fed cards into the little C&P. You could cry … really.

So, Shop Boy pats the interns, encourages them, praises them, calms them. As well as the Intern Whisperer, I have been called the Softball Coach, also in a snarky tone.

All right, and before Mary says HEY! — she considers this the most powerful word in our language — Shop Boy will admit that I probably have a little more time to pat, to kid, to cajole, to encourage and to praise.

She’s the brains of the operation, after all.

Me? I’m Shop Boy.

Have I mentioned that all of our interns have been female? Mary will, sharply, as if she’s doing me a favor or something by selecting them. Fine, fine. Shop Boy likes girls. Always has. Sue me. Most of my (sadly, platonic) friends in school were girls. I didn’t trust guys. Still don’t, to tell you the truth. Shop Boy has five sisters — four of them older — who beat plenty of manners into me and taught me, gently (at least at first), that I should put the toilet lid down before leaving the bathroom. And I mostly liked them anyway. So, sure, technically, it has not been an unpleasant development having young women hang around the shop.

It’s funny: Mary always had more guy friends. And so she’s sort of eager to test the dynamic of the male intern. I mean, working with Shop Boy is a dream come true, after all.

But back to the Maryland Institute College of Art class. Hey, once you’ve herded cats — I mean, corralled a bunch of college kids, male and female, for six hours at a time — you learn what makes them tick. And how to keep them (hopefully) engaged and entertained.

And that’s what I mean about this benefiting future interns, including Aron, who starts in May. See, now the interns who show up all eager will find Mary well-prepared and eager as well, ready with all of these interesting projects: lining envelopes with cool papers, designing and printing coasters, doing origami, creating posters from wood type and old copper cuts, you name it.

Which leaves stacking stuff into neat piles and cleaning rusty trays to Shop Boy …

With some guy hanging around having all the fun with Mary.

It won’t be pretty.

Not that I’m bitter … yet.

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