The Ballad of the Ricoh Kid

OK, I am a print geek. I have pad my bills for over thirty years in the print technology industry. I read the trades like I used to read the funnies, I get excited about printing on brushed aluminum, or at blinding speeds, or in layers that build up into shapes. Both inkjet and toner, cut sheet or continuous roll, feeding a template a database to create variable data, designing hot folders, mastering books for print on demand, imposing booklets to be saddle stitched, that is the kind of stuff that is my bread and butter.

Oddly enough, I work as a traveling print workflow expert. My peers and I are the single most intensively trained force of print enthusiasts the American marketplace has ever seen. As a tribute to the war stories we have shared, regardless of the print or graphics company we worked for at the time, the trials we have all endured, the customers we have placated, I offer the following epic ode to a very, very small niche of society, the print technologist.


There once was a print tech, a genuine print geek,
a guy you would turn to for solutions.
He lay ink and toner on substrate all week,
and followed all the technical revolutions.

He knew color, he knew pre-press, he knew how to impose,
registration was his idea of a great time.
He fixed client files, and you have all seen those,
he preferred to do his book finishing in-line.

There was no stock he couldn't use, no font he couldn't wrangle,
no corporate network he could not handshake.
He adjusted screenings with swiftly calculated angles,
he fixed every configuration anyone managed to break.

Of course he was called on to minister his trade,
he found employment as a traveling print expert for hire.
He helped others workflow, helped them buy and upgrade,
it was not long before he set the print world on fire.

With every customer he rescued, every crisis he corrected,
his reputation as a miracle worker grew larger each day.
When he talked of solutions, his word was respected,
when he left, customers were all squared away.

Of course he had a least favorite, all the great ones do,
that one client who just never takes good advice.
The ones that try to force a new printer to run through
the workflow in place before they bought the device.

They subset their fonts, checked critical color under office lights,
never configured custom media in their trays.
Every minor issue becomes a crisis that over excites,
and every decision means countless meetings and delays.

Then one day he was called on to assist the Client from Hell,
the absolute worst, she was bad, she was the Ultimate Customer
She was the villain of almost every horror story techs tell,
even the hungriest of salespeople cut and run from her.

Until the Kid walked through her door, into printing Nightmare;
disorganized floor, humidity at max, an inefficient and repetitive workflow.
There was archaic machinery with only haphazard  repair,
stacks of unlabelled media, piled in rickety tableaux.

She took an hour to explain she had a problem she could not understand,
another hour before he understood it was one of registration.
Once he let her wind down, he quickly took the problem in hand,
and as usual, it turned out to be in the configuration.

But he knew that if he did not do something, he would be back here again
applying bandages where transplants were sorely needed.
Costly delays and additional reprints made her madder than a wet hen,
but previous advice usually went ignored and unheeded.

“I’m sorry to say, you are doomed from the start, your PDF files are DOA.
Your ADF needs TCRU’s, your AQL is low,  your DPI is totally wrong.
Your ICC profiles are beyond repair, registration drifts more every day,
at the rate you are going you'll be dead in a month, so start learning funeral songs.”

He put the fear of print failure into her that summer afternoon,
horrified her with descriptions of failure in complex jargon.
He spoke of commitments blown, how leasing payments balloon,
and then he threw destitution and bankruptcy into the bargain.

By the time he was done she had sworn to do right, she was changed,
he had overcome each and every one of her objections.
Together they toiled until the shop was ordered and rearranged,
She now dutifully followed all of his print directions.

It was not long at all before she was out of the red,
her print quality was now consistent and repeatable.
Instead of running behind maintenance, now she was running ahead,
and her color in one word - unbeatable.

Best practices make more money, saving hassles and grief,
A printer usually only fails when mis-configured, heaven forbid.
She learned lessons that would last, though his time there was brief,
she was now finally making profit, thanks to the Ricoh Kid.

©2015 Christopher Reilley
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