Normally what they could have sent to me via courier;  had to be faxed for my final approval. All 120 pages of the issue. Mary and I stand by all through the transmission, hoping that the telephone lines between Chicago and the printing plant in Vienna wouldn’t break down. That the fax machines would hold up for this continuous hours long transmission. As the machine spews out the pages after pages, I sit down to put them together in order. Pasting and folding and trimming to the size  with Xacto knife.  Finally I could look at the black and white mini version of the first issue of our Czechoslovakian edition. We had of course discussed all of it just a couple of weeks before in person during my most recent visit to Prague. We had kept some pages open to accommodate the last minute ads coming in. Which I had not seen.  But of what I had seen,  they have followed my instructions to the T.  Now I am giving it one last look before giving them my final okay. I am pleased at the job they have done, but with one small exception. I am not quite happy with the placement of an ad visually clashing with the facing editorial page. I page through the issue several times and decide that its something we could easily fix by swapping the offending ad with another one in front of the book. And voila, we would have a perfectly balanced issue. I communicate this to Ivan, who in turn passes it on to the people at Gistel Druck. The next day, we’re on the phone again.

‘You know, the Gistel people tell me that to switch those pages is not as simple as you told me it would be.’

‘Why is that?’

‘Because it would take a lot of work and time, which we don’t have.’

‘Lot of time? It shouldn’t take more than an hour, if that!’

‘They say it will take several hours.!’

‘Several hours? They are bullshitting you.’

‘Of course I don’t know as much about the printing process as you do, but they sound quite convincing to me.’

‘That’s precisely why printers do it – knowing that you’re sure to be lost once they begin with their technical mumbo-jumbo.’

‘I don’t know. Honestly, I am lost. Perhaps you want to talk to them?’

‘I will if you want me to.  But just tell them that I really don’t understand why it should take so long. Tell them it’s something I can do with my left hand.’

At that point I am not thinking that they had probably gone ahead and stripped everything together in signatures and may even have made sets of plate ready flats. Worse yet, already  burned the plates. Something they weren’t supposed to do before the customers have given their final okay. Squeezed between me in Chicago and the printers in Vienna, Ivan agrees to push them one more time. Since now I have challenged them and their professionalism, however grudgingly, they do it.

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