Slightly sacrilegious…

…but funny. And hey, regardless of whether or not it’s amusing, I get credit for spelling “sacrilegious” properly.

This story dates back to around 1987, when I was working for a typesetting company as a full-time proofreader. Back in the Dark Ages before everyone had a computer, before desktop layout and publishing, companies used typesetters to create their brochures, manuals, ad materials and whatever else they needed. Type was processed and developed, just like photographs, in a darkroom, on reprographic paper. Artists would then cut it up with X-acto knives and paste it onto boards, and it would go to the printer. Yes, it was as complex and tedious as it sounds.

We were experiencing a particularly busy time in my office, and we’d all been putting in a fair amount of overtime. My eyes burned and my neck ached, and I was wiped out, but I had to keep going, because there was a lot of work to do. Sometimes, it made me a little punchy.

Late one day, I was working on a job from a printer whose client had written some sort of religious/spiritual book. The brochure was going to be several panels, with a description and excerpts from the book. The back panel was slated for a rather long list of bookstores (that would be carrying this book). They were all bookstores that specialized in religious material. I had no idea so many existed, but there it was–this very long list of titles that had to fit on one panel. And it simply would not.

We tried reducing the point size (font size), and kept knocking it down until it was the smallest we could go — 5 pount, and barely legible. The list still didn’t fit. The typesetter switched to a condensed font and broke two columns into three. Still wouldn’t fit. Finally, we had to call the client and ask them to advise. Mind you, we were already into our second hour of overtime.

The client, harried, said, “I don’t care what you have to do, but that list has to fit on that panel, and you can’t eliminate any of it. Abbreviate the bookstore names as necessary and squish in another column if you have to, but make it fit.”

(groan) I told the typesetter to abbreviate words as she saw fit. I worked on other jobs until she gave me the first pass of the bookstore panel to read. Ugh… my poor eyes. Itty-bitty, teeny-tiny condensed type–there was no way our client’s client was going to go for this, but we had to do what was instructed. So I struggled through these squashed columns, having to make minuscule marks with my pen. I noticed that the typesetter had abbreviated as much as she could as she went along. For example, “Holy Trinity Books” became “Hly Trnty Bks.”

As I read along, I glanced at the next name on the source copy: “The Assemblance of God.” Sighing, I then looked over at the typesetter’s output to see how she’d made that fit.

She’d typed: “Ass of God.”

I lost it. I couldn’t help myself. It was late, I was tired, and this was too much. I laughed so hard, my stomach hurt and tears ran down my cheeks. I howled so loudly, the typesetter came running out of her room to see what the hysteria was about. Unable to catch my breath, I pointed to the line, and she started cracking up too. She hadn’t even been aware that she’d done that.

It took a long time to restore some semblance of order after that. I started pontificating like a preacher at a revival, bawling in an exaggerated Southern accent, “Ah have SEEN the Ass of God, and ah have been HEALED, y’all!” Every time I thought I’d regained control, I’d break down and start laughing again. But finally, we got that [expletive deleted] job done.

Oh, and we decided to make it “Assmb of God.” That panel still came out looking awful, but at least we didn’t blaspheme.