I don’t mean to brag, but my sister worked briefly as a part-time administrative assistant at a popular manufacturer of paper and paper products in the early eighties before a small bout with addictive diet pills and Cocktails 2-GO ® forced her to (gladly and gracefully) bow out of the rat race. So, in terms of credentials for handling this column, you might say I was born in the right place at the right time. Uh-oh… I can hear my prospective readers already:

“Well, you wouldn’t have it had you not been born into it, so don’t act like you worked for it.”


“Well it looks like somebody’s got a case of the ‘I-got-the-luck-of-the-draw-and-you-got-lucky- when-you-met-me’ disease.”

Or also…

“Whoopie, bigshot. So, you’ve got a paper and paper-products related advice column… good for you. But the fact is, we all came in alone and we’re all going out alone. Life is a long dark road and it’s getting narrower all the time and you are failing to see the edge and you are about to drive right off it. I bid you a bitter-sweet farewell, for I loved you when you were smart enough to come in out of the rain, but I grew to despise you as you became so drunk from the warmth of being inside that you forgot the storm which bore you and those of us left out in it. You have found yourself face to face with an artist’s greatest error… and a man’s gravest shortcoming, but one with which no heart can find fault… for doesn’t every last one of us yearn for some of the same warmth? And doesn’t every last one of us swear to do better in the eyes of his fellow man if first the warmth of shelter is granted us?”

That said, let’s talk paper.

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Dear Expert on Problems with Paper:

Like most of America, I’m looking for work and haven’t had much luck. I’ve sent out over 600 resumes with not even a single interview. Since the Bush administration says the economy is turning around, I’m thinking the problem must be with the paper I’m using for my resume. It’s lavender and has a light watermark of various inspirational sayings. Do you think I should switch? Oh, by the way, I’m looking for work in the insurance industry.

Thanks for your help,
Janice Bailey

Dear Ms. Bailey,

In 1989, I worked a rash of general freight shipping and receiving jobs in humid warehouses that left me broke, tired, thirsting for the approval of strangers, and with a strong distaste for anything trying to be even remotely inspirational or uplifting. At the last one of these fitful stabs at providing for myself, I humped boxes onto forklifts with somebody by the last name of Bailey. I took to calling him Beetle Bailey, and then I started calling him Bee. Then I started calling him ‘Crank,’ then ‘Crank and Beans,’ then ‘Cross-top,’ and finally ‘Truckstop.’ And then I forgot about nicknames altogether and simply struck him in the center of his chest every time he walked past me and I happened to be thinking about the dank minimum-wage hole I was hunkered down in as a means of cowering from life and all it had to offer.

Then one afternoon I broke open a ten-ream boxlot of something that lifted me up and gave me a new beginning. I’m very well acquainted with the paper you’re using, Ms. Bailey. It’s a Hammermill® 60lb bond (light colors, no white or gradients) graced with the watermarked inspirational sayings that you mention in your letter. First marketed as a stationery line entitled “Bright Spots,” and initially cataloged as a paper product for senior citizens to use in correspondence of a personal nature, this little pick-me-up line never registered even semi-decent sales for Hammermill. Fact is, senior citizens found the idea of personally inspirational stationery to be the most awkward, queer, and passive approach to kindness any of them had encountered since biannual balloon bouquets from their grown and distant children and in-laws took the place of an occasional visit or phone call.

So, Hammermill had the idea to try and save the sagging sales of Bright Spots by repositioning the product in their business catalog in hopes that thirty-something careerists like yourself would be hungry and ambitious enough to try anything once… including the newly named “Positive Results” papers, memo pads, and other business related paper products.

Frankly Ms. Bailey, I’m on your side. I think a resume that comes on paper watermarked with inspirational sayings is heaven-sent. But, Janice, you and I are not like the others. We are people who understand that, “Success is like a flower… it only blooms if it is tended to.” (POSR-1880) The problem is not the paper you are using, Ms. Bailey. The problem is that in searching for employment people like you and I have the added burden of temporarily hushing our larger message (“Anyone who has heard the sound of silence and the sound of wisdom knows that the two are remarkably similar.” POSR-2331) and toning down our stationery to the standard of those who work in the so-called real world. So for now, keep the inspirational sayings in your personal correspondence. And when it comes to the so-called real world, use the so-called real paper. A sensibly mid-weight white or very light beige linen stock does well.