There are people that know intimate details of my personal life. My doctor, lawyer, accountant, banker, hair stylist and that one checker at Ralph’s. But unless they are all at the same party, chat and decide to drain the punch bowl, none will have the complete story.
That honor falls to Mamie, the manager of the copy center at my local Staples. Like a bartender an hour before closing time, I tell her all my secrets.
This occurred to me after my most recent visit to that oasis of toner, over-sized printing and presentation board mounting. I was there to get good prints of a new passport photo that I’d taken. What? Just go to a place that does the whole thing, you say? Have you seen how those come out? After a certain age my image will not be circulated without excellent lighting and retouching.
But I digress.
The conversation when Mamie saw me went like this:
“Hey, how’s the pooch? When’s that book of yours coming out again?”
You see, for the last ten years Mamie has unwittingly assisted me in pitching the Marie Callender’s account, presenting storyboards and site maps for numerous web projects, helping commemorate my Dad’s 85th birthday, and making large prints of photos of my dog diving underwater suitable for framing. To be clear, she’s not nosy or prying, I just seem to feel better after telling her all the details of each job. I’ve been more successful than not with these, something I attribute to the “Mamie touch”.
She’s witnessed the evolution of my writing career and was the one that gave me a discount on the printing of my manuscript, part of the submission requirements from a neo-Luddite literary agent that I was querying. I heard that she’s now retired and running a toothpick farm in Washington state.
I proudly show Mamie the cover of my first book and she explains to the other customers waiting to pay or get help sending something to the copier what I have done.
“She’s written a book, and it’s coming out in-?”
“November,” I say not really wanting to attract attention to the photo paper she’s holding with six rows of my 2″ X 2″ mug shot for the U.S. Passport Office.
But this is much more interesting than the back-up paperwork one woman needs to refute an insurance claim denial. Even the bag lady nestled in the corner pretending to be waiting for a free copier gives me a thumbs up. A guy waiting with stack of photos of guys on motorcycles in the desert looks back and forth from my photo sheet to my face and gives me a head nod of approval.
I wonder if they look at this place and Mamie like I do, as a kind of airport terminal waiting to send you on your way in life. The trip can be sometimes as trivial as getting rid of a clerical annoyance. Or it can be to capture forever events that will be remembered fondly.
But this is L.A. after all, and as the bag lady said, “This screenplay isn’t going to produce itself!”
“What do I owe you for the photos, Mamie?” I hold the sheet up in front of my face like I’m auditioning for a revival of “A Chorus Line.”
“Nothing, it’s on me. Just go someplace fabulous.”
And one more for the road…