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Old Friends, Days Treasured —Cagle

January 2007
THERE IS something sad about the end of the year, a feeling of loss, even when it’s just night turning into day.

Like chapters in a book, the year tells part of our entire life story, and I’m sure many of us are guilty of turning the page without giving it much thought at all. But, as Barry Manilow used to sing on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, “Don’t look so sad, it’s not so bad, you know. It’s just another night, that’s all it is.”

In those 365 days of 2006, a boatload of commercial printing companies changed hands. Thousands of good, hard-working people lost their jobs when plants reduced capacity, were sold or closed down altogether. And many good, hard-working people lost their lives, leaving behind multitudes of friends and loved ones. So while you may wish to have a few more color units and another $10 million in annual volume…remember that not all blessings can be found in the finance ledger.

And now, a bit of Auld Lang Syne and marking the end of an era with peanut butter cookies.

Reader Lis Trouten grew up in the printing world. She remembers, as a youngster, peering in from the doorway of the Turtle Mountain Star’s pressroom in Rolla, ND. Hot lead was a no-no for little girls, so she watched her father work from a safe distance.

As an adult and a purchaser of printing, Lis is taken by the very familiar sights and sounds of her local provider, Temp’s Litho, a mile from her Twin Cities home. Once inside the door, Lis allows her senses to become bombarded, beginning with a deep breath.

“It smells like a print shop ought to smell,” she wrote recently. “And by ‘like a print shop ought to smell’ I mean, of course, that the pervasive odor of the ink evokes a pleasant melancholy, the faint sound of old memories—wheels turning, metal plates slapping, the ‘ker-chunk’ of the machinery providing solitude because it limits conversation to only what is necessary. And what has to be said is called out above the noise in as few words as possible.”

Temp’s Litho has all the trimmings of a mom-and-pop operation. Lis has been taking jobs there for more than 20 years, knows the employees by name, and has been to Temp’s on days when it was supposed to be closed. The self-serve photocopier there also features self-serve payment, with a slotted coin and bill box nearby.

“Below the slot it says, ‘If you need change, remove the lid and make your own,’ ” Lis relates. That says something about the people that run Temp’s, as well as the people who do business there.

Sadly, it seems this personal print shop is going away, taking with it another remnant of a time that is starting to seem long past. Heartbroken at the thought of losing a place that has meant so much to her over the years, Lis brought in a plate of cookies to the guy working the counter.

“This is because…because…because…,” she wrote, recounting her conversation with the counter man, “I’m sad.”

Lis Trouten’s letter is just a reminder that relationships still mean a lot in our business, regardless of whether the job is her 400-quantity run with an accordion fold or a two million hardcover run for a major publisher. If your facility went away, would someone light a candle or drop off a plate of Nutter Butters? Lis’ cookies were homemade—a nice personal touch—but, as packaged goodies go, Nutter Butters are without peer. As you embark on a successful 2007, strive to be Nutter worthy.

DO YOU COPY?: Let us kick off the new year by saluting the efforts of America’s little people in battling the oppressive stupidity, greed and gross indifference of county government. I was struck by a recent article in a small weekly newspaper, The Central Record, of Medford, NJ. It weaved the tale of Joseph Dugan, a contractor who got fed up with paying 50 cents or $1 per single photocopy at two county clerk’s offices in South Jersey.

I’ll assume most of you dear readers, being in the printing business, haven’t retail price shopped for copies lately. After all, you’re free to abscond after stealthily producing 25 Britney Spears prints off the DocuColor 5000 for you and your demented co-workers. It’s roughly a dime per at Staples, as much as 15 cents at my local UPS store.

What makes this story particularly galling is that the taxpayers of these and many other counties throughout New Jersey and the rest of the country are the ones being gouged. It’s our dollars that pay for the paper, toner and copier itself, damn it. Talk about the click charges from hell.

Dugan thought about taking the county clerk’s office to county court after one episode in which he gave a few bucks to an older fellow who had run out of money while copying deeds. Most people run out of money at the blackjack table, or after buying a round too many at the local tavern. Never heard of the county clerk’s office tapping out anyone.

Well, Dugan filed suit in 2003, and recently triumphed in Burlington County Superior Court. The judge ruled the two counties must pay $1.6 million for the refund of overcharges made since 1996.

And beginning this month, lasting for the next five years, the two county clerk offices must now charge a nickel per copy. Dugan himself will get up to $7,500. That, my friends, is 150,000 on-the- house photocopies at two severely chastised county clerk offices.

—Erik Cagle
 

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