“Can’t I Have It Right Away?”

by Dave Weller

I spent many years in jobs related to the printing industry. I came across this poem, and what it says is as true today as it was when written in 1904.

By Strickland W. Gillilan

I sat beside the estimator’s desk one afternoon—
He hadn’t had a smell of lunch, but said he’d “join me
I know a very little of the art preservative
And hadn’t a suggestion or a helpful hunch to give.
So there I sat and listened, in a meditative way,
To tales of woe, each ending, “Can’t I have it right away?”
I didn’t understand another syllable I heard;
The articles were Greek to me to which these men referred.
They talked about the kinds of type, the grades of stock
and all,
Of picas, slugs and nonpareil, till I was like to fall
From weariness; and every man in leaving turned to say:
“I guess you understand me—and I want it right away!”
No matter what was wanted, if ‘twas letter-heads or bills,
Or circulars to wrap around some anti-billious pills;
No matter if the job would take a week or maybe more,
Or if the same job made him wait a half a month before,
Each patron turned with anxious look, while hustling out,
to say:
“Oh, yes, I didn’t tell you that I want it right away!”
“I s’pose its human nature,” sighed that printer-man to me,
“But I have yet the very first wise customer to see;
They wait until they’re out of all the printed stuff they’d
And then come rushing in to be replenished on the spot,
They’ll wait to give the order till the very latest day,
Then tear their hair and tell us they (must have it right

—Inland Printer, Vol. 33, 1904