Some of you have asked about these “press checks” that I go on; what they entail, and why I’m so freakin’ tired when I get home.
I work for a company that, among other things, prints a few million catalogs multiple times a year. Before you get all up in arms about how many trees we kill to do this… yes, we know. We have taken a number of steps to try to ensure a minimum consumption of resources. We work directly with our über-green paper mill (the folks who actually MAKE the paper we use) to find an adequate balance between post-consumer recycled content and virgin fiber to create a clean enough sheet that our product colors appear accurately to you, our customer. That paper is FSC-certified, which means that the trees which are killed for our paper are “responsibly” harvested, and that the chain of production from tree to certified paper mill to certified printing plant is never broken. We shifted to a lighter-weight paper that uses fewer resources all around, and results in a thinner catalog which in turn requires less fuel to deliver to your mailbox. And, we print our catalogs at a plant in Milwaukee not only because they are committed to environmentally sound practices but also because they are close to the paper mill and that, once again, means decreased shipping fuel consumption.
Me with a roll of catalog paper.
But, ah, they’re in Milwaukee. So three times a year, weather and schedule permitting, I head out to Milwaukee so that I can see with my own eyes the catalog pages as they come off the press, and approve of the color of those products being shown. These press operators know what they’re doing, don’t get me wrong. But seeing a page layout on a computer screen or on a laser print or as a Kodak color proof is one thing. When that page is combined with 31 other pages on a signature zipping through a high-speed offset printer at blinding speeds, suddenly the color of the orange yoga mat on page 4 weighs very heavily on the color of the blue sheets on page 28. And if the pressman needs to add yellow to the mix to get that orange yoga mat just right, it’s going to knock those blue sheets into green and then we’re going to have some unhappy customers. As a representative of the company paying for the print job, I’m there to determine and approve the compromise.
The drag part is this: I’m not a big fan of compromise. I want that yoga mat to be bright tangerine orange, and those sheets to be perfectly sky blue.
Also a drag: those presses run 24/7. The press operators work in 8-hour shifts, but I’m the only rep from our company. So when a run needs to be approved at 1 pm, it’s me (and our lone print rep) on site to sign off on it. And at 5 pm, and 8 pm, and midnight, and 3 am, and 5 am, and so on. Except that 5 pm run broke a plate, so the 8 pm got bumped to 11 pm but the midnight is running on another press so it’s still on target but it’s running really well so they’re going to hit the 3 am at 2:30 instead… For five straight days I live my life an hour at a time. Sleep is hosed by the second day. I try to catch a nap whenever there’s a long enough break. I change my clothes around midnight, in order to keep track of what day it is, but my mind becomes putty and I still get confused. Somehow, our print rep manages to keep a smile on his face even though he’s running on the same crazy schedule that I am. Perhaps because he isn’t the one making any decisions. :)
I usually stay in a hotel that is only a mile or so down the road, but there’s a convention in town and they’re booked solid. Instead, I’m staying at a Radisson about 9 miles away. The advantage is that it’s across the street from a shopping mall, so I can squeeze in some last-minute present hunting. Also, they have a much better breakfast menu than the place I usually book. The disadvantage is the increased distance to the plant when I’m making that tired, middle-of-the-night drive.
My friend Alison has lent me the first season of Firefly to watch during my down time. I wonder how far in I’ll get?