June 3, 2009

Coating the stamp in the red ink of the pad, I raise it over the stark whiteness of the bag and press down hard, holding it a few seconds. I use my left thumb to press the corners down on each side of the stamp-- I’m sure this one will be perfect. Carefully, but very quickly, I lift the stamp from the now-stained surface of the bag, revealing the business logo. A wave of disappointment goes through me as I take in the uneven distribution of the red ink on the front of the white lunch bag.

Stamping the bags is a chore left by the boss, Lora, to the teenage employees during the slower days. The other girls dread it; maybe because after having stamped bags for half an hour, the muscle between your neck and shoulder gets sore, or maybe that’s just me. It’s a tedious job; I don’t mind it though. Sometimes, I actually enjoy it. I once read that if people could learn to take pleasure in the smaller things, there would be a lot fewer dissatisfied people in the world.

Gently, I lay the botched up bag in the pile of other less-than perfect bags that I’ve been working on for a couple of minutes. This time, I wipe the stamp clean before putting it to the pad-- a fresh start. I center the bag on the counter in front of me, and with determination, I bring the stamp down swiftly and hold it. Raised on tip-toe, leaning all of my weight into this effort, I’m feeling actually a little bit anxious to see how well my surely beautiful creation will turn out. Making sure to lift straight up, I separate the stamp from my canvas. There is a line above the emblem from where the top of the stamp made contact with the bag, signifying that I’ve pressed too hard.

Pressing too hard is something that I am familiar with. In nearly all of my chores and projects, I start out fiercely intent on accomplishing whatever the task may be-- sometimes to the point of exhaustion. Despite this, I am not the average perfectionist. A look at the back of my car would prove it: several sweatshirts and a couple pairs of sunglasses, along with a water bottle and my zebra bracelet occupy the seats and ground.
The pile of stamped bags has outgrown the pile of blank bags by now and I’m down to one more. That muscle between my shoulder and neck is protesting as I transfer the ink from stamp to bag for the last time this afternoon. Press and hold, then lift up, uncovering what is possibly the most even, distinct, and overall most-flawless stamp I have made all day. Excitedly, I hold the bag up, admiring my simple craft. I set it atop the finished stack, ready to be stored. Putting both hands protectively around the bags, I lower them into the metal cart underneath the counter, but as I’m releasing my grasp, my right index finger smears the upper corner of my formerly perfect print. Surprising even myself, I don’t experience the wave of frustration I did earlier this morning to my mistakes-- I suppose there is beauty in imperfection.

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