One of my favorite Hallmark people just quit her job. I've only known her for about five of my 26+ years at Hallmark Cards, but she's a peach. Lydia Steinberg. My second-favorite petite Jewess. And the finest human being ever to work in PR.
Lydia's PR baby was the Hallmark Writers & Artists On Tour program, in which the company sends us scribbly creative types out to meet & greet the public. One year, I went with Bighead Needleman, forging a friendship that not even our fierce blogrivalry can tear asunder. Last time out, I was paired with one of my favorite humor artists, Eric Brace. We went to Sacramento (my birthplace) in August. We did TV, radio, and live events, heard people’s amazing stories about what cards have done in their lives, and came home inspired and exhausted.
Before all that, we had to do publicity photos, a session set up by Lydia with a staff photographer. Come the morning of the photo shoot, I’ve completely forgotten about it. When Eric calls and says, “Hey, don’t you know where you’re supposed to be?” I realize I’m wearing the kind of thermal underwear shirt you’d put on for a pickup softball game. My electric razor is on the fritz, so I look like I’ve been at sea for a week.
I dash down to the shoot, knowing exactly the look of disappointment that’s going to be on Lydia’s face. I’m dreading it. I mean, I’d rather disappoint just about anyone in the world than Lydia. She’s rock solid, dependable, caring, utterly competent, supremely professional, a joy to work with. To be anything less when she needs me to hold up my end, well, it’s mortifying.
She gives me The Look. And I start to make my whiny excuses, but there’s no point. Then I remember: I’ve got an old electric razor right in my office desk drawer, and it still works. And the men’s department at Halls is a mere two-minute run from where I’m standing. So I tell her I’ll be back in ten minutes and bolt back down the hallway.
Halls is a high-end department store, where designer jeans can run $500 and the fine Italian suits cost thousands. But once in awhile, they have a big sale, and as I sprint into the men’s department, lo, it is once in awhile. There’s a long sale rack of shirts and I start pawing through them, ignoring the dapper salesman who’s looking at me the way he’d look if a dog scampered into the place and started humping his leg.
Within seconds I’ve found an Armani shirt in my size marked down from $250 to $50. My employee discount makes it $40, plus tax. I payroll deduct it and bolt for my office, where I shave like a wolfman possessed. I come running back into the photo shoot, and the smile on Lydia’s face makes all the stress worthwhile. I’m breaking a sweat now and I need to lie down, balance my electrolytes, and maybe get a blood transfusion. But I have taken The Look off of Lydia's face. And I am filmworthy, insofar as I will ever be.
So, here’s a heroic shot of The Talent portion of Team Sacramento (Lydia actually, if wryly, calls us "The Talent")), ready to meet the public and defeat the forces of evil. I’m the one in Armani and eyeglasses. And that’s my partner in derring-do, Eric Brace, aka Bigfoot. We will not rest until the world is safe for social expression.
Shirt and shave, courtesy the great Lydia Steinberg, who shamed me into them that summer day. I miss ya, Lydia.