The Laminator

Two jobs ago, I worked at the Houston branch of a big ol’ global insurance corporation, nestled in the top floors of the second-highest skyscraper in our downtown. Within the very center of that organization, we had a laminating machine.

The laminating machine was easy to use. You tucked a piece of paper – letter or legal size – into the correspondingly sized clear plastic folder (that was a little longer and wider than the paper), then fed the plastic/paper sandwich into the machine. And it would melt the plastic around the paper, coating and sealing it to form an un-rip-able, un-water-damage-able document.

I’m not talking about the kind of item you could buy at Hobby Lobby or Michael’s, though. This machine was industrial strength – all metal. You could burn your fingers on it, if you weren’t careful. I mean, it cost more than $49.95, for sure.

The laminator was on a counter in the corner of a break room, accessible to anyone. Above it, in a cabinet, there was a seemingly bottomless supply of laminating plastic. I don’t know whose job it was to order that plastic. Maybe it was done by angels.

I don’t remember ever having one work-related document that needed laminating, and I don’t remember seeing anyone else need to laminate something for work. Unless you counted the wallet-sized cards one of the department heads had her assistant make, with the cell numbers of everyone in their department printed on them in painstaking WordPerfect table format. And yet, we used that laminator like there was no tomorrow.

The woman who trained me at that company showed me the laminator on my first day and confided that she’d used it to make her daughter place mats and flashcards, all with Tweety Bird motifs. Because her daughter liked Tweety Bird, you see. One of my friends at that company, the best Exec Assis they ever had, used it to make decorations for her department. Along with the GBC binder, the laminator helped her make activity books for the children of all her friends, too. My fiance (who I met at that company, but who I hadn’t met yet, at this point in the story,) tells me that he and his coworkers laminated everything they had, just for the hell of it. Just because it was fun to use the machine. The melting plastic had a particular smell, like chemical grilled cheese. When your document came out, there was a short window of time during which the OCD-inclined could press at the plastic with improvised squeegees or the backs of their fingernails, to press out any air bubbles lingering under the clear lava. Watch it turn from matte to shiny. Then it dries, shiny to matte.

One slow work day, I used PowerPoint to create a restaurant menu on a legal-sized sheet of paper. It was for a fictional café, named after my son, that served easy-to-pronounce dishes at easy-to-add-and-subtract prices. I modified a piece of livestock clip art to give Rory’s Café a down-home, yet contemporary logo, and did the menu front and back in coordinating color scheme and font set. I made four menus – one for each member of our family – then laminated them. It only took an hour or two, altogether. As I fed the menus to the laminator, coworkers passing the break room waved at me. One or two came in to see what I was laminating, to be impressed and make note of the idea as a future project for their own kids. Something to do on a slow work day, maybe with grapevine or fish clip art, an Italian or seafood restaurant, Taylor’s Bistro or Zachary’s Fish Shack…

I took my menus home and presented them to my youngest son, then five (who was fascinated with restaurants from an early age and is only more so now, six years later). He was rendered speechless. See, they weren’t just pretend menus. They were laminated, and that pretty much made them real.

For the rest of that evening and week, we played restaurant, with my youngest son serving as waiter, host, chef and owner of Rory’s Cafe. It was gratifying to see him play this way, with such confidence and authority. And reading and math skills! (He’d been so shy since the events surrounding the separation.) One of my best friends at the time said, about the changes I’d noted in my son, “Well, he’s the proprietor of a small business now. That gives a man confidence.”

Because of the laminator, you see. Laminating documents makes an impact.

Back to the point I’d intended to make when starting this story: I didn’t know, at the time, why the corporation kept the laminator around and kept it so well stocked with supplies. As I said, there was nothing work-related, really, that needed coating in plastic.

But now, looking back, I like to imagine that the management there saw what people were doing with the machine, and had enough snap to see how happy it made us. The laminator was our toy/tool for exercising creativity. Someone with power realized that, thought it was a good thing, and gave the order to keep it in the budget.

To whoever that person was, if you existed: thanks.

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Posted in domestic, stories, work on 03/05/2009 02:47 am


  1. I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
    And you et an account on Twitter?

  2. I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
    And you et an account on Twitter?

  3. I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
    And you et an account on Twitter?

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