Today my work led to me traveling a bit, here in Coban with my boss. I enjoy these moments because I get to explore parts of Coban that I wouldn’t alone. Whenever my boss is here, I notice places and things I overlook when I’m alone. I can let my guard down slightly. Take in my surroundings, instead of walking around more paranoid than I would like to admit. We made a few stops as we entered and exited the 10 passenger shuttle that became overtaken with supplies for the hotel. Our last stop for the day, a small printing company.
I’ll share, initially I wasn’t impressed with the idea of helping or working there for a few hours. Let me backtrack and clarify. I do a small amount of graphic design and needed to collaborate with the printing company to print a few tasks that I had been working on for what felt like forever!
I initially was excited because I got to see my little projects come to life but quickly overwhelmed when I was making last-minute revisions on a rigged keyboard. I kid you not, none of the special characters were where they were supposed to be. While the keys were in their respective locations, the functions were all screwed up. What should’ve taken a few minutes took three hours as I strategically pressed each key while holding down the shift key with my pinky to figure out where each function was hiding－the worst game of “hide & seek” ever.
Even with my glasses on, I squinted at both the screen and keyboard as I hit the
question mark key for underscores,
the plus sign key for a parenthesis
the backspace button for enter
and several other unimaginable combinations.
It was like I was at one of those fancy coke machines and hit strawberry lemonade for water, Sprite for Coke, and Mello-Yellow for french vanilla cappuccino－don’t you wish they had a button for that?
I exercised the super-human patience that I bottle up and save for children, and made it through.
As I found myself growing frustrated and irritated at the tedious task, I paused and took in my surrounding. I was literally sitting in the production area of a printing company watching a staff of both men and women create booklets, packets, textbooks, wedding cards and invitations by hand. While they do the printing using commercial equipment; the binding, cutting of the paper, attaching of ribbon, glitter, glitz and personalized touches are all done tediously one-by-one. By hand.
I watched a gentlemen sitting next to me carefully measure with a metal ruler where to cut the cover, apply the adhesive and attach the cover to the rest of the booklet. I watched an abuelita measure and cut 500 ribbons to then tie delicately to tiny addressed cards that were cut individually by hand.
I watched a younger woman hot glue those ribbons to the fronts of 200 cards. I watched in awe as another women carefully drew a wavy line on each invite where the design was then cut out with a sharpened scissor, one card at a time.
I couldn’t stop thinking about how shaky my hand would be. The line originally planned to have a slight wave would be an unattractive zig-zag of some sort.
My whining and hair rubbing stopped.
I am always in awe when watching Guatemalan people work. I never hear them complain, ask for their break, sigh, mumble under their breath or sit with a calculator, furiously calculating how much they make a day and contemplating if they can replace that income doing something else－I know I’m not the only person who does this!
When I finally finished adding the finishing touches to my designs, I walked over to one of the large industrial sized machines (I have no clue what it’s function was, I was just excited to be close enough to touch it). I touched and carefully examined various paper textures to determine which would be best with the assistance of a staff member. To see the amount of pride they took is showing me each pattern, texture, thickness and explain each slight variation I was impressed, beaming with excitement.
I couldn’t stop looking around, watching everyone creating amazing product all by hand. I have grown accustom to going to Kinko’s or Digicopy watching lazy college kids hit print. This was the real deal and I was standing next to the most amazing machines that did who-knows-what!
I paged through some of the work they’d completed for other clients and the precision to detail was amazing. I couldn’t get over the fact that each binding was glued BY HAND! Each staple, manually added. Each fold, cut, crease done with care and special attention given to each detail.
It made me reflect on all the sloppy, shlopped together (translation: pulled together with no attention to it’s content－submitted for the sake of submission) work I had done over the years. Each thrown together college paper, every copy and pasted file I submitted, every homework assignment from my youth crinkled up with smeared ink stains from where my mother made me cry as she “helped me” do my homework.
I vowed then to never turn in sloppy final products again and to take more pride in the tasks I complete.
You would think the products they sold were expensive, they are very reasonable.
I asked them if they considered buying more commercial products so they could be more efficient. They laughed, told me they were efficient. That it’s easier to do everything by hand to ensure everything is it’s best. Doing everything by hand ensures that they have no customer complaints about quality and they keep long-term customers who consistently return. Everyone agreed that they would rather have long-term loyal customers than to be fast and sloppy.
Makes sense to me!
I left, beaming. Happy that I could share the afternoon with them, talk to local business owners, watch them work skillfully and send me off wiser than I was when I entered.
#SheJumped and vows to never give someone else a half-assed representation of my awesomeness