by Elianna Greenberg
People like to say that you can find anything you need in New York. I have learned that you can find everything you need—except someone who binds 11-by-14-inch graphic design novels.
It was the last day of my sophomore year graphic design class at Parsons and, insane perfectionist that I am, I had spent every spare hour finalizing my intricate design novel, leaving only two measly hours for printing and binding.
It was an elementary mistake. If I didn’t get my book printed in time for the final critique, I would most likely fail the class. And I was sure that if I did, my high-powered, highly employed parents would finally have something to say about sending me to an art school that cost more than a small house.
I had two hours.
I called every printing establishment in New York City, but no one would take on the project. It’s too complicated, they said. After putting off the inevitable for as long as possible, I walked over to East Side Copy, the dingiest printing place in the village. I knew those guys would do any job with enough goading and money; I’d had a few spare jobs done there before out of necessity, which had all turned out fine—a fact I conveniently ignored, because the place was filthy and smelled like cats and bad magenta ink.
I walked in.
It was finals week at the New School, so the place was akin to the Serengeti during lion mating season. From my few previous experiences there, I knew the only way to handle the chaos was to mark my territory.
“Excuse me!” I boomed through the confusion and sweat. I actually jumped up and down to make my five-foot frame noticable in the crowd. “I need a book printed and bound—can someone please help me as soon as possible?” I was twitching compulsively; the smell of magenta ink was already getting to my head.
A few minutes later, a serviceman lumbered over to where I was standing.
“You need something printed?” he asked gruffly.
“Yes, yes please!” I said, quickly conducting a lengthy rant.
“Alright. I’ll see what I can do,” the burly man answered slowly. He looked incredibly bored. Did this man not understand that this was an emergency? I glared at him and handed him my flash drive. Anger was bubbling up inside of me. How could I have left this so late?
“Follow me to the back.”
As I pulled up my file on his slow computer, an impressive amount of vitriol filled my body. One hour left, and my file was taking 10 minutes to open. The printers in the shop were creaky. The man helping me had beads of sweat forming on his forehead and a tired, shuffling stare. What did these people know about printing my complicated project?
He must have seen the tears forming in my eyes, because he said, “Look, we’re going to get it done, OK? My name is Eddie, by the way.”
I nodded, looking to him for support. A surprising half-smile graced his gruff, bearded face. I wondered how often he smiled, considering the customers who heckled him all day.
“Move over, Elie,” he said. “We’ve got printing to do.”
Ten minutes later, all 30 pages were printed perfectly and Eddie and I were upstairs, trying to figure out the binding.
The upstairs lair of East Side Copy looked like something out of a movie. Boxes stacked haphazardly created a labyrinth, and windows had signs that said “DO NOT OPEN!” I couldn’t help but grin.
When Eddie finally shoved the pages into a binding contraption and pressed the power button, the machine began to tremble and was soon shaking with incredible force. I looked at Eddie in shock, but he yelled, “Don’t worry!” and punched the bookbinding machine on its side with his fist.
My jaw dropped.
The machine didn’t stop shaking, so he went at it, pushing every button like a mad scientist in a laboratory, hitting it like it had personally offended him.
Suddenly, I began laughing like I hadn’t in months. Here was a grown man, a professional, beating a printer. I was laughing so hard that I hardly noticed the machine had stopped shaking. Tears were streaming down my face when Eddie handed me my book proudly.
It was perfectly bound. Well, sort of—Eddie worked a little more magic on it with some Super Glue, and the result was the absolute best I could have asked for. I hugged Eddie, then ran to class with 10 minutes to spare.
I will never forget what Eddie did for me that day, and I’ve been using East Side Copy ever since. You can definitely find anything you need in New York—you just have to look past the grime. And I definitely recommend the dingy, darkened little printing shop on the east side where the staff is professional, knowledgeable and, most importantly, unconventional.
Elianna Greenberg is a dual degree student at the New School, studying both graphic design and literature. Her musings can be found at 13thand5th.tumblr.com.
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