I ran out of business cards last month, so I went to an office supply store to order a new batch. When it comes to business cards, I like to keep things simple. I prefer cheap, legible business cards which state the facts in an organized kind of way.
When I got to the ordering counter at the office supply store, I waved my old business card in front of the sales associate and said, "I want to reorder this business card."
"That's an old template," she said, peering at my business card. "It's no longer available. But we can probably find one similar to it." Opening a large catalog which was clamped to the counter, she riffled through the book and paused when she got to a page of plain-looking templates. She pointed her finger to one of them. "This one resembles your old one."
It didn't resemble my old one and I didn't like it much, but it was the simplest one they had. "That one will be fine," I said.
The sales associate took my old business card from my hand, peered at it and began typing my information into an order form. "Do you still want to be Nancy Robinson?" she said.
"Some days I do and other days I do not," I said. "But being Nancy Robinson is kind of an ongoing tradition in my life, so yes I still want to be Nancy Robinson."
She typed in Nancy Robinson.
"I know Nancy Robinson is a very common name," I said, " but I've made the name Nancy Robinson famous. Locally famous, anyway. Or rather sort of locally famous...I mean, not everywhere locally famous but some people know who I am. It's too late to change my name to something else."
"Okay," she said. "Nancy Robinson it is. Now, what's your job title?"
"Artist," I said.
She typed Artist in the job title line.
"Wait," I said. "Artist could mean anything these days. People might think I was a musician or a food truck person. Not that I have anything against musicians or food truck people...I'm just not a musician or food truck person. I'm a painter. Change my job title to Painter."
The sales associate deleted Artist and typed in Painter.
"Wait," I said. "Painter implies I might be a house painter or something. Not that I have anything against house painters. House painters are very cool people and quite noble in their own way. I could never be a house painter because it would mean staying outdoors for long periods of time, and I'm kind of a hothouse flower. Change my job title to Fine Artist."
The salesperson deleted Painter and typed in Fine Artist.
"No, that sounds stupid," I said. "Nobody knows what a fine artist is any more. They'll think I'm bragging about how great I am. Change it to Surrealistic Painter."
"How do you spell surrealistic?" the sales associate said.
"You're right, surrealistic is too obscure a term," I said. "I listed Surrealism as my religion on Facebook and they let me get away with it. I think they didn't know what the word meant."
The sales associate stood with her hands poised over the keyboard. Her expression was stoic and non-judgmental.
"The word surrealistic is like the word sublime," I said. "Once I entitled a painting Fear of the Sublime and everyone thought I was making reference to the musical group named Sublime. " I chuckled. "Yeah, right, like the woman in my painting was afraid of some musical group! " I leaned my elbows on the counter. "The woman in my painting represented the Censor. The Censor was from a self-help book I was reading at the time."
The sales associate shook out her hands and flexed her fingers.
"Speaking of self-help books, " I said with what I hoped was a conspiratorial smile, "maybe I should list my job title as National Treasure. It would be a creative visualization exercise. Although I'm not currently a national treasure, if my business card says I am, then I'll start acting like one and morph into being a national treasure in the process of life itself."
The sales associate typed in National Treasure.
"On the other hand, even I don't believe I have what it takes to be a national treasure," I said. "In fact, I'd chafe at the bit if I was a national treasure. Being a national treasure would be a huge responsibility. I'm sick of having to be so responsible. I was the oldest kid in my family and everyone expected me to be super responsible and a role model for the younger children. It was like living a fishbowl of stagnant water."
The sales associate deleted National Treasure.
"I have an idea what to put in the job title line," I said. "I'll put the same thing I have on my website: Painter, Writer and Raconteur."
The sales associate typed in Painter, Writer and.
"Wait, do you even know what a raconteur is?" I said.
"No," the sales associate said.
"Yeah, most people don't," I said. "Just say Painter and Writer. "
The sales associate deleted Painter, Writer and and typed in Painter and Writer.
"Wait...don't put Writer," I said. "I'm not a real writer. I mean, I write stuff for fun, and some people say I'm good at writing, but I'm not even published except for my blog on the Internet. Anyway, I should be spending my time painting, not writing, because my painting career is my real career with demands and expectations. I mean, people are buying my paintings and I'm in some art shows and need to do new work. Yeah, you're right, a writing career is probably what I should have done with my life because I talk so much, but it's too late now. I'm too madly in love with painting. Except some days when I'm too tired to paint. Painting is really hard work. But I LOVE painting! Painting is my heart child. Painting makes me happier than anything in the world."
The sales associate was looking at me with the kind of expression people wear when viewing a car accident where no one was injured but the wreckage is blocking traffic.
"Oh, to hell with it all, " I said. "Delete Painter and Writer and just put Artist in the job title line."
As I said, I like to keep things simple.