About Me

My photo
Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Stamp Out . . Never Mind. Don't Stamp Out Anything, Please. Who Am I to Suggest What Should Be Stamped Out?

What I once needed to know about.
 I learned it well.
David's brilliant and he knew when he hired me in 2007 that he wanted to get me well-established in the office and then send me to carpet cleaning school. I was neither eager nor resistant. It was just on the to-do list. When the time came, I went to university and was immediately intrigued. I found I did know a little about the subject since I'd worked  with textiles a lot in life and I am of the era when females were required to take home economics in school. Oh, we not only made pillow cases and ruffled aprons, we learned all bout the process of milling the fabric from cotton, warp, woof, weave and more. We were well rounded girls. In my carpet course, I was the only female, so I got extra attention from the instructor: read this "tutoring/mentoring", not "arranging a date". Man, I can talk warp, woof, fourth generation nylon and the synthetics made mostly from recycled plastic bottles (hell for carpet cleaners - plastic doesn't clean as easily as natural fibers). When it came time to take the test, I was hooked - a carpet cleaning nerd - and took a notion to ace the test. David and I later laughed: when he noticed it was time for the test to begin, he thought, "She's going to try to ace it." We knew each other that well 3 months after meeting one another. I didn't ace the test. I got 96% or 97%, an achievement I held over the heads of the actual carpet technicians for years when they got cocky with me. Knowing about carpets and cleaning them was good for me. I could talk to customers so brilliantly, I'm sure their eyes glazed. I could take fine woolen rugs from walk-in customers and dazzle them with my superior grasp of the care and feeding of their valuable asset. The one time I attempted a few swipes across some carpet with "the wand", I learned what separated the men from the woman, but I still knew my stuff, intellectually. David called that one beautifully. Make certain the person on the phone knows something. My certification expired last month. I didn't renew it because that wasn't part of my life any longer.

What I need to know about now.
I'm learning at warp speed.
Generally speaking, my immediate new task is to bring one narrow finger of David's and George's successful business empire into the 21st century. Oh, this slim portion of the enterprise has been quite promising for years, but it operates on the "write in pen on copied forms kept in 3-ring binders" model. Oh, and "don't forget this - write it down somewhere". So things have been written on scraps of paper and kept in perpetuity. Important things. Things that should not be entrusted to paper scraps, perhaps. Once more, it's my role first to make this business run like a modern-day operation. No. David wants more than that. David wants this machine to run like a world-class business. After all, it's highly successful and we're looking to g-r-o-w. Quickly and exponentially. That means I need to know a little something about what it is we do. What we do here is locate collectibles and sell them to collectors/investors. The primary focus is on valuable postage stamps. There is a 75-80 year demonstrable history of this investment losing virtually no ground,
The Inverted Jenny
 ever. Oh, yeah, their value grows about as quickly as watching grass propagate on delayed-action film . But they don't lose and they do increase in worth. I knew how to spell philatelic, pronounce it and understand its meaning. That was about it. In the first week, I learned some things: the first postage stamp was a product of the British Post Office in 1840. In quick succession, the Penny Black, Penny Blue and Penny Other Colors appeared, and their cost today may startle the reader. I learned inside 5 days the difference between the Blue, the Black, the Red, the Brown, and not by looking at their color. I know some of the provenance and urban legend and the reasons these items are more valuable than the better-known Inverted Jenny with the biplane accidentally printed upside down. I still have everything in the world to learn, but here's something else I deduced in just a few days: my crash into alcoholic hell didn't wash away all my brain cells. I can still learn. And fast.

Stamp Girl - my newest, 
temporary (?) alter ego. 
Long may she stamp!
True story. Summer of 2007 when A1 Carpet Care still shared digs with David's and George's other interests. Though we'd known each other only a month or two, David already knew I was drawn to vintage, venerable things, paper ephemera, history and romantic notions. "Would you like to see something wonderful?" Sure I would! Who doesn't want to see something wonderful? He held it out in a pair of tweezers and began to speak. " . . British, 1861 . ." Well, I am a human being. I did what I am hardwired to do. Yep. Reached out my hand and took that stamp between my fingertips. Very bad form. The realization hadn't hit me yet when he began to tell me all the reasons why we didn't handle them barehanded. He never raised his voice, flinched or used colorful language. I didn't damage the stamp. I learned something. It must be noted, I also "shop" with my hands. I buy nothing I haven't touched. If my hands are soiled or if I damage the goods in some way, I'll remedy that, but I "see" with my paws. But no longer with stamps. I've now handled a few. I  have tweezers and white nylon gloves and archival paper sleeves and . . . hey, you live, you learn. Given my degree of efficiency and the speed at which I take on life, we're lucky I didn't affix that stamp to an envelope and await dictation of the recipient's address!

George, David and I met for awhile each of the 5 days of the first week. Mostly, I brought an agenda, a list, questions, suggestions. Mostly they made decisions and heard my arguments in favor of this or against that. Ultimately, they asked me to lose every shred of hesitation, to move forward fast in combat boots and to ask forgiveness later (if needed), which they would grant. Apropos of not very much, the one who knows me best brought it up. I didn't mention it and hadn't really thought of it. "She hates 'secretary'. I don't want anyone to call her 'secretary'." And I do, too. It's the word and perception mostly. I am helpful and accommodating to anyone who comes my way in business, but if one calls me anything other than "Les", I'm touchy about what appellation is chosen. George looked startled. "Why would anyone call her that? That's not what she does here." David and I began the chorus: "only female among men, pleasant to everyone, greeter, sits near the front of the business." OK. George got it. "Well, we'll get business cards and a name plate. What are we going to call her?" Ah ~ a business meeting with time spent on weighing words . . my idea of heaven. I suggested "queen". They laughed, but did not agree. We settled on "manager". I am the manager of the business. I like that one!

A quote that pleased me: "The philatelist will tell you that stamps are educational, that they are valuable, that they are beautiful. This is only part of the truth. My notation is that the collection is a hedge, a comfort, a shelter into which the sorely beset mind can withdraw. It is orderly, it grows towards completion, it is something that can't be taken away from us." - Clifton Fadiman in Any Number Can Play.

To my surprise: No one - no one - commented on the picture of me in the previous post shooting a gun in the desert, Diet Dr. Pepper at the ready, tattered bullseye targets at the table. That would be a sight calling for the quick and firm application of brakes, folks!

Something that charmed me to tears: Justin returned to work upstairs as a carpet cleaner. He'd been banished much longer than a year. Justin doesn't ask permission for hugging. Justin hears the news, comes downstairs looking for me and says (arms extended), "Hey, Girl, come here." I did. He did. "What's new, honey?" "Same old, same old, Les." "Not me, Dude. Everything is new and wonderful!" "OK, Les.  Me, too!" Good! Now, go earn money!


  1. Never got into stamp collecting, never had the chance really since no one knew did it as as a hobby. It does look interesting though.

    Now I did a little coin collecting with my grandfather but when he passed his collection disappeared.

  2. So you're a phila...phila...good deed doer now as the good wizard would say. I'd say that's pretty cool. As you know my man is a collector and I have fun cutting up his stamp catalogs and reading the magazine about stamp collecting.
    I'd say the job is perf!
    xoxo Kim

    You might like this link http://pen-thief.blogspot.com/

  3. Comment from Doozyanner. I referred her to Blogger's Help Desk and they fixed her up . . for just a little minute. Otherwise, apparently, Blogger still eats boogers and Doozy commented through e-mail:

    "I shied away from that picture of you with the gun because I just don't like guns. Yes, it registered that it was a picture of you, but...a gun? My mind went "eww" and moved on. Congrats on the title, Queen Manager! You will manage quite well. :-) "

  4. @ BeachBum ~ Hey, Beachy, I never really was into stamps either. I mean, as a kid, if an interesting looking stamp came on a letter, my parents would call my attention to it and I might clip it. The year I married, the USPS came out with a yellow rose "Love" stamp and I used them on my wedding invitations and thank-you notes. But that wasn't particularly about the stamps. I like looking at the ones that cross my desk now because of their antiquity and the characteristics of the paper and ink/dyes. Quite fascinating because I like paper ephemera. But I'll never be a collector. I don't have $1000s to spend on one stamp, thank you very much.

  5. @ NuminosityBeads ~ Ha, Kim, I knew "stamps" was going to draw your attention. And, of course I remember that Dave is a "philadelphian". VERY good use of "perf", and you always say you're not good with words. I shall call you Miss Perf, more insider secret lingo. Thank you for the link. I'll go looking.

  6. @ Doozyanner ~ I am not a fan of guns but was so terrified of them it seemed wise for me to at least build an understanding of what they can and can't do, etc. I learned. I understand. I've never needed to repeat the experience much. I wish "bad people" didn't carry them and use them against others.

    I'm managing pretty well, I believe. Signed, Queenie

  7. Oh cool - I like stamps - my grandfather collected them - and coins - and I still have his book which tells you how to recognise all the oldies. I once thought I should like to be a stamp designer - if such a job existed! I painted lots of tiny stamp sized watercolours - then gave them all away. I wonder if anyone kept theirs....

    It's clear, reading your blog, what a magnetic brain you have for facts and details - I am in awe!

  8. @ Rachel ~ I think you'd be a wonderful stamp designer and if anyone got rid of your watercolors, they've missed out on something important. BTW, the late artist Steve Kaufman painted several images of stamps specifically for David and George. They're believed to be the only stamp paintings in existence by any serious artist.

    Oh, Rachel, the brain. I don't know. After I pickled it, I was afraid it would never come back to the capacity I once knew. Now I have some glimmering hope that it will eventually return to most of that capacity. We shall see. I try! I work really hard to make that brain do its stuff.

  9. I'd get some really interesting stamps from all over the world when I worked at the CSU library. I think I still have an envelope stuffed with them somewhere...they are cancelled so likely worth less. Or I'm sitting on a fortune and don't know it.

  10. @ CramCake ~ They ARE pretty fascinating, and they particularly appeal to me because they are paper, seemingly only serve one narrow purpose one time, yet we know some of them live on brilliantly. In and of itself, the fact that yours a cancelled stamps does not take away their value. The ones I'm seeing from the 1800s are certainly cancelled and they are worth . . . well.

  11. Perhaps I should clarify that I am good with words by themselves as in wordplay, My mind has a way of filtering them through a pun or wordplay circuit and will jump at any opportunity to twist them into a little entertainment. It's putting together lengthy series of wording in which I get impatient and keep it short. Commenting on blogs or coming up with clever greetings on birthday can be a real challenge for me sometimes. I find that when I drink caffeine it's much easier, but I'm trying to avoid the stuff!
    xoxo Kim

  12. @ NuminosityBeads ~ I should say you've just proven your word-ly talent in comments to this post! You're good, Kim. People don't do anything exactly the same. We all bring our own spin and special talents to whatever we do. I just loved your immediate jumping on to insider stamp talk - quick as a fox. Good luck to you and your separation from caffeine. I don't even attempt that. I don't want to give up THAT best friend. I've already had to give up several best friends in life. I'm keeping coffee on the menu.

  13. I collected stamps briefly as a kid, about when I was in the 7th grade. I saw this kind of instant stamp collection you could order in the classified section of my mother's Family Circle magazine (I'd read anything as a kid, at least when the TV was on the fritz, as was frequently the case). I got something like 100 stamps from all over the British Empire. As the British Empire no longer existed in 1974, I'm sure they were all of vintage quality. Didn't matter the country--India, Canada, Singapore--all had a picture of the Queen. I quit collecting simply because I really didn't know how to add to the collection. I could find no more ads in any of my mother's magazine.

  14. @ Kirk ~ That was pretty much my experience as well, Kirk. And - man - does that not give one a clear picture of British imperialism at its height? LOVED Family Circle ~ I bought it for myself for years after I became a mom. But I'd read it for years when my mother and grandmother bought it. I wonder if it still exits? Family circles mean less to me than once . . BTW, plenty of people who will pay $12,500 for one stamp (highest value stamp that's crossed my desk in two weeks) don't know how to build a collection, either.