Thursday, October 16, 2014

it doesn't matter what you had for lunch

One of my responsibilities at work is to order printing. In addition to design, layout and production, I arrange for collateral materials — brochures, informational "one-sheets," various types of signage — to be printed. (For years, these items were known by their actual names. In the corporate world, keeping with the trend of referring to common things by a new and confusing buzzword, they are now collectively called "deliverables.")

Over the course of my thirty-plus years in the marketing/advertising/publishing field, the amount of actual printing has dropped considerably. Chalk it up to the internet and, more recently, portable devices like the iPad and Kindle. You can also lump in the overall short attention span of the average person (a direct result of the aforementioned wireless culprits). But, every once in a while, some things still require a physical piece of paper with words and colors and a logo, if not simply to appease a bunch of old guys who haven't quite warmed up to progress.

Because most people are either not familiar with, oblivious to or not interested in the actual time frame or the effort that goes in to the printing process, I am lucky to have a full-service quick-print shop right on the premises at work. So, when another whim-driven printing project arises with an impossible turn-around time, I can send a PDF of the job via email and in a short time, I will miraculously have a quantity of professionally-printed pieces, ready to impress.

There have been three different managers of the in-house printing facility in the nearly eight years I've been with my current employer. The first guy  Chris  was great. He was well-versed in all printing terminology and was able to provide quality service and product. He was replaced by Dave. Dave was an idiot. He was forgetful and unresponsive. Dave was soon relived of duty and a new guy named Chris came aboard. New Chris is capable, knowledgeable, accommodating and friendly. Obviously, they should stick to hiring guys named "Chris."

A month or so ago, New Chris delivered a stack of freshly-printed newsletters to my office. I thanked him for his usual prompt service. He offered a heartfelt "You're welcome," immediately followed by an invitation that caught be off-guard.

"Hey, Josh," he began as he dropped the newsletters on my desk, "You've been giving us a lot of work lately and we'd like to thank you by taking you out for lunch one day this week." 

Wow, I thought, that's really nice. Then I thought about who I would have to have lunch with! In addition to printing services, this outside company also maintains our internal and external mail room. A team of sleepwalking boobs shuffle regularly about the hallways, pushing carts laden with envelopes and packages. At any given time during the day, I swear they have the same cargo and have just been pushing it aimlessly around for hours. When placing print orders, I only feel comfortable dealing with Chris, as the rest of the staff seem to not fully grasp the concept of... well, of anything. If Chris is out, simple explanations become lengthy and repetitious usually ending with: "You should probably wait until Chris is back." And now I face the possibility of eating with these goons. What on earth would I talk to them about? What sort of common topic could fill a lunch hour? Oh, jeez... this was bad.

The week went on and Chris never called me. I was relieved. It was a nice gesture and it looked like I was off the hook.

On Thursday, Chris showed up at my office door again and reiterated his invitation. Shit! This time, he said they would be ordering in. Ugh! Now, I'd have to sit in their office and make benign chit-chat for an hour! Maybe I could say I was really busy and had to rush back to work. All sorts of lame excuses rushed through my head. How could I spend little to no time at a lunch in which I was the guest of honor? This was gonna take some strategy and it wouldn't be easy.

Chris instructed me to visit the website of a local Ruby Tuesday's and select a lunch entree. I hate Ruby Tuesday's. Their menu is not very accommodating to vegetarians. Aside from spaghetti squash and baked potatoes, the pickins are pretty slim. However, I do eat fish (I know, I know, technically I'm not a vegetarian, I'm a pescatarian. Go fuck yourself), so I ordered a grilled salmon salad. And the anxiety started all over again.

All morning, I played the pending lunch date over and over in my head. Could I talk about movies? No, I haven't seen any recent movies, as my tastes tend to lean towards Hollywood classics shot in glorious black & white with most of the cast long deceased. Could I talk about sports? Not really, aside from baseball (which is all but done), I don't follow sports. How about books? Nah, I doubt any of these cart-pushers have read anything more advanced than Hop on Pop. The clock ticked. 11:30. 11:45. Finally, the noon hour struck. Soon, it was quarter-after. Then, 12:30. Had I been forgotten? It was today, wasn't it? My phone wasn't ringing. No "Hey, Josh, lunch is a-waiting up here!"

Suddenly, at two minutes before one, Chris appeared at my door. I stifled a gulp. He smiled and announced, "Here you are!" In his outstretched grip was a large, Styrofoam take-out container. "Enjoy!" he said, as he handed me the container and a sealed package containing plastic utensils and a neatly folded napkin. I thanked him. He returned a nod and headed back down the hallway alone. With a long exhale of relief, I popped open the lid — all ready to enjoy a solo lunch.

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