The voice on the other end of the phone had become so very familiar to all of us over the past few days.
“I’m just calling to check on you,” she said.
“No, you’re not.” I thought. “Well, I’m doing just fine.” I said. I was going to make her ask.
“How’s my job coming?” she asked.
Looking at my watch, I thought, “Not too much differently than two hours ago, the last time you called.”
“We still haven’t seen the proof we talked about this morning,” I said. “Have you made the final revisions?”
“No, I had to show it to my supervisor so he could go over it. He hasn’t gotten it back to you yet?”
Trouble, right here in River City. The project had actually started well. We had plenty of notice. In fact, we knew the event was coming over a month ahead of time. We had discussed timetables, options for preparing the materials, deadlines. The customer had listened and nodded her head. We thought she understood. In retrospect, I now think she was sleeping.
The first sign of trouble was a missed deadline. The event was Tuesday. We had asked for all of the program materials, bios, and photos one week ahead of the event. On Monday, she called.
“I don’t have everything ready,” she said breathlessly. “You just can’t believe how busy it’s been here. If I get it to you by Wednesday afternoon, can we still have everything on Tuesday morning?”
I expect this call. Unless the customer has proved that they can actually stick to a schedule, we assume that they can’t and add a day. This also allows for mechanical problems, computer glitches, and the host of unknown gremlins that can and do attack without any forewarning.
“Wednesday afternoon will be OK, but we really will have to have everything in,” my standard answer. “It needs to be ready to go and we’ll have to turn the proof around really quickly to get it all done.”
I’m talking reality here. The customer made an affirming noise on the phone. I could picture her nodding. I still didn’t realize that she was asleep.
When Wednesday afternoon was nearly over, I called. She arrived at 12:45 pm Thursday with a sack full of folders. I listened patiently as she explained what she had done, making a list of what would have to be straightened out. I really hadn’t wanted to work over the weekend, and was seeing my Saturday morning vanish into a pile of paper. We had been discussing the job and the schedule at our daily meetings, so everything went right into prepress with a bright red “HOT” sticker on it.
It took her 20 minutes to drive back to her office, 5 minutes to get settled at her desk, and 30 seconds to dial the number. “How’s my job coming? Is the proof ready yet?”
Poor Richard’s law says that the more you call, the longer it takes. The customer’s calls continued on an almost hourly basis for the next 2 days. Everybody talked to her. It was difficult to work on her job (or anyone else’s) for answering the phone to tell her the current status. The revision count mounted throughout the day on Friday. We thought we were finished at the end of the day on Friday, but then she left work early without returning the proof. Monday morning early we had a promise that there were “just a few more little changes.” Then a two hour lull in telephone activity was followed by her surprise that her supervisor hadn’t returned the proof yet.
“When you get the proof, how long will it take you to run it? Can you deliver it to me this afternoon still?”
I’m incredulous. The project will take 7 hours run time plus 3 hours in bindery to assemble. At least it will run digitally and there’s no worry about ink drying. I explain that there is no possible way that the materials will deliver today. If the proof isn’t returned quickly with a signature, the job won’t deliver at all. We’re going to be working late and we’ll deliver in the morning before the meeting begins.
If I could receive color over the fax machine, the proof would have been bleeding red. Apparently, the supervisor didn’t like the changes our customer had made to his writing. He reverted most of it back to the version we had originally received.
The job got done. My right hand man, Brian, stayed late. Joe came in early. I put together books. The materials were delivered before the meeting began. I hope it was all OK. I can’t say with certainty that it was.
The phone’s been less insistent since the job was delivered, but I’m waiting for a call. One of the changes in one of the revisions was missed; or it wasn’t changed back. Why were we charged so much for layout and proofs?
I’m also waiting for a check. Poor Richard’s law says the bigger the rush, the slower the payment.
Ain’t life grand?