‘s Keyboard and Miriam’s Advice

My friend just spilled tea into his keyboard, and he’s all mad at himself and upset and so on. Having just recently had a close encounter between a cup of coffee and a laptop, I feel his pain tremendously. I commented in his journal with Miriam’s Advice, which echoes down from the late 1960s to today. The story comes by way of my mother, who told it to me after the coffee accident.

It’s good advice, and I hope you find it as useful as I do. I just wish I’d gotten it a couple of months ago, instead of two days after my accident.


My mom went to work at a big New York City publishing house in 1967, shortly after my parents came back from Japan to the United States.

A woman came up to her when she walked in the door. “Hi, you must be Karen,” she said, “Hi, I’m Miriam; I’ll be your supervisor, and let me show you to your desk — it’s right over here. Now…”

And this is the important bit…

“In the course of your work, you are going to be manipulating artwork and galley proofs and typography books and all sorts of materials that deserve your utmost respect. You should never have food or drink on your desk, ever. It shows a disrespect to the work of the artists you’re working to present, and it shows a disrespect to your own artistic endeavors as a layout editor and page designer. We have spaces where you can get a cup of tea or coffee, or have a doughnut; and of course you can have lunch at your desk if you like. But you should always clear your desk of everything you’re working with first, then have lunch and then clean your desk before you bring out the art and other materials you are working with — and there are cubby-holes right over there for the oversize items that you don’t have space for in your desk.”

My mom said that Miriam’s Advice was the first thing she heard on arrival, and as a result she saw how scrupulously it was obeyed, everywhere in the office. No other work-place rule was followed so thoroughly as that one.

Your computer is your typography books, your artwork-facilitator, your galley-proof-set, and your typography books. All that stuff deserves your utmost respect. Don’t bring tea or other liquids or food around your computer; it’s asking for trouble. Do all that kind of stuff elsewhere, and treat your workspace, and your art, with respect.

In other news, I owe e-mails to a few people, including and and and others. But the bell has rung, and I have to go off to class, and I want to respond in as meaningful a way as I can.

have a great day, everyone.

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