Of Boors and Business Cards

December 29, 2007

I was behind the counter when he walked in. He had a serious look on his face and was carrying on an animated conversation. At first, I actually thought he was talking to me. Then I saw the headset . . . just like Lieutenant Uhura from Star Trek. He made brief eye contact, then continued his conversation while impatiently circumnavigating our lobby. This went on for several minutes. He obviously wanted something and expected me to wait patiently for him to end his conversation. As time ticked on, I decided to write him a note.

“I’ll be in the back when you’re finished,” I wrote in bright red crayon on a sheet of paper, and left for the production area.

Mr. Webster defines a boor as a “rude and insensitive person.” I can think of no better example today of boorish behavior than the choice of the cell phone over the human being in front of you, especially when it comes to those damnable Bluetooth headsets. I’d like to propose some anti-rudeness legislation that would require every user of a cell phone to also affix a flashing red light to his skull. When a cell phone connection is established, the light will automatically begin to flash; signaling others around the user that he is preoccupied and can legitimately be ignored until the light quits flashing.


What I have in mind is something like this . . .

Back to the story. The important businessman finished his conversation, but continued his pacing. It was obvious that a visit to the printshop was beneath his dignity. He needed business cards. He had left the project up to his executive assistant, but she had been unable to accomplish it to his satisfaction; so he supposed he’d just have to take care of it himself.

My internal alarm bells were beginning to ring loudly as the businessman paused in mid tirade, reaching behind his ear. For a moment I thought that he had an itch, or maybe an intelligent thought. Perhaps he’d actually paid attention to the way he sounded and decided to temper his tone. Then I realized that it was the cell phone again. Our one-sided conversation was preempted once again.

Business cards are a bucket with a hole in the bottom of it. You pour time and energy in the top and watch the money run out of the hole at the bottom. Most printing companies view business cards as a necessary evil; at best a service for a good customer who depends on you for lots of different printing needs. Yet large accounts can be won and lost over the ridiculous little 2″ x 3.5″ strips of paper. We once gained a good account because the previous printer had messed up the president’s cards . . . but that’s yet another story.

The alarms started ringing when the important executive stated that his assistant couldn’t get his cards printed correctly. That’s what he said. What he meant was, “she couldn’t read my mind.” And neither could I.

I saw the imaginary red light atop his expensive haircut quit flashing. He reached in his coat  pocket, pulling out the information he wanted on his card and placing the scrap of paper on the counter. “Here’s what goes on the card,” he snipped. “The website’s listed right there . . . you can download our logo. How much will it cost and when can I have them?”

He almost began pacing again as I slowed him down to discuss colors, paper, quantity, and to try unsuccessfully to pin down how he wanted his cards to look.

“Make them look professional,” he snipped.

I explained that he would be sent a proof via email and that he would have to issue approval for the layout before the cards were printed. I gave him a price for a set of color business cards and explained the file format and size that we would need for the logo. I explained that the price included layout through the first proof and that additional charges would apply if changes or additional proofs were required.

“That won’t be necessary,” was the blunt answer, “I’m very decisive.” He reached behind his ear and walked out the door as the imaginary red light on his head began flashing once again.

That was 3 weeks and 4 proofs ago. The businessman’s color card is now reflex blue and has been rearranged to such an extent that I’m not even sure of his first name anymore. His poor executive assistant has been handling proofs and changes because he is too busy to attend to the details and she can’t get the man to make a decision. There is no way that we will ever recoup the time we have in layout.

The worst part is that the finished product is going to be anything but professional looking.

In my dreams, I have been picturing the busy executive on a trip to Japan, where they take business cards very seriously. Exchanging cards with a Japanese contact, our boorish executive bows and mutters the appropriate comment regarding the fine texture of the paper upon which the Japanese card is printed. The Japanese executive smiles and looks down at the card he has been given. He inhales sharply, trying to find the words that will allow him to complete the polite exchange. He is at a loss, but is luckily saved from embarrassment as the red light attached to our businessman’s skull begins flashing in his face.

Isn’t life grand?