Guide Dog

Sometimes you get in the zone, and maybe slip just a little bit into autopilot mode. On those rare days when the inking is going just right for long stretches, your back doesn’t hurt, the iPod’s hit a sweet stretch of music (hush, Mary!) and you’ve got, say, only another 45 minutes to go in a run of 1,000 or so menus, feeding one after another into the big C&P.

Reach, place, remove, stack; reach, place, remove, stack.

Well, Shop Boy has an expression for this zen state: “pounding the guides.”

In essence, you’re just trusting the gauge pins — and your hand-eye coordination — to keep the paper straight again and again and again. A nice, firm feed. Shop Boy was feeling so good he shared the good news of success with Mary as she entered the room to use the paper cutter.

“Whew, that was a good run.”

Mary picked up a menu and grimaced.

“What?”

By “pounding the guides,” I had actually managed to move the gauge pin on the right, knocking it loose from its masking tape bonds. Like, a half-hour ago, apparently.

The menus are two-color, meaning I would never have noticed the damage — about 200 menus wrecked — until the second color was applied. It was a subtle crookedness. But Mary picked up on it right away. Autopilot isn’t really her thing.

And this isn’t cheap paper we’re talking here. I felt like an idiot, especially since now I’d have to go back through the stack one at a time with a ruler to determine on which menu, exactly, the gauge pin first slipped.

As is my way in these situations, I began to pout.

“Don’t worry, Shop Boy,” Mary said, trying to cheer me up (and keep me working efficiently — nothing less efficient than a pouter, after all). “Just turn them into specials paper.”

I hadn’t thought of that. The menus are 12 inches square. The paper we cut for the restaurant’s nightly specials is 4 inches by 12. (Geez, it was almost like Mary had planned it that way or something. ;-) ) And since I had been printing only at the top of the menu sheet, I was able to turn the ruined pile of menus into two very healthy piles of specials paper, minimizing my mess-up by two-thirds.

Shop Boy, now two-thirds less pouty if not quite as serene as an hour before, set about cleaning the C&P for the second color. Forty-five minutes later, I was right back in the zone, pounding the guides.

With Mary checking about every fifth menu that came off the press, of course. Sheesh.

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