Friday, January 4, 2013

I Am a Coward, Doctor

Today I tried to buy contact paper.  I am not sure why contact paper should be hard to buy; it is the sort of thing that always seemed to be around the house when I was a little girl—but then again, my mother is one of those amazing people who always seems to have one of everything.

Making them rather hard for us kids to live up to.

My mother always kept contact paper in the office, on the second shelf from the top, just a little higher than the kids can reach.  I thought, based upon this admittedly skewed data sample, that contact paper grew on trees, albeit ones that where a little inconvenient for us vertically challenged beings to climb; but of that notion I have been disabused.

It all seemed so simple when the adventure began the other day.  I had a poster—just a picture, actually, a rather impressive effort (if I do say so myself) that came of combining three separate photographic representations of Tintoretto’s Paradise into one beautiful, or at least presentable, whole.  The original is far better than presentable, of course, or I would not have coveted the reproduction so much as to spend three hours with photoshop in mocking it up.  In the words of Wikipedia (waxing more than usually poetic—which, along with the absence of dates, is generally a sign that they’ve stolen their text from someone who knew how to write, for example—heaven help us!—an academic):

The crowning production of Tintoretto’s life, the last picture of any considerable importance which he executed, was the vast Paradise, in size 22.6 x 9.1 metres (74 ft. by 30 ft), reputed to be the largest painting ever done upon canvas. A painted sketch (143 x 362 cm), held in the Louvre Museum (Paris), was submitted as a proposal by Tintoretto for a picture in the Ducal Palace in Venice. It is a work so stupendous in scale, so colossal in the sweep of its power, so reckless of ordinary standards of conception or method, so pure an inspiration of a soul burning with passionate visual imagining and a hand magical to work in shape and colour, that it has defied the connoisseurship of three centuries, and has generally (though not with its first Venetian contemporaries) passed for an eccentric failure; while to a few eyes it seems to be so transcendent a monument of human faculty applied to the art pictorial as not to be viewed without awe.

In other words, it’s even prettier than June Duprez.

But don’t tell Harry I said that.

My mockup wasn’t quite so stunning as all that, but it was good enough that I wasn’t ready to abandon it to dust and the rays of the morning sun (from those rare occasions when I am home before noon, and the blinds are recklessly opened, in a way that would distress Mr. Wodehouse).  So I set out hopefully to find the precious paper which, while it might not be the panacea for all decorating woes, would at least serve to keep a pretty good print job from fading before the other Mr. Wodehouse could say What Ho?

I very quickly found that they don’t stock contact paper like they used to.

There should be a fourth fiber here …

I found construction paper, cartridge paper, tissue paper, wrapping paper, cardboard, sketch paper, artist’s canvas, and mattes.  I bought three strings of beads, two spools of white cotton yarn, a passel of seventy-five-percent-off Christmas paraphernalia, a picture frame that was the wrong size, and black and cream ribbons.  I was the favorite customer of JoAnn’s, Michael’s, and Benjamin Franklin’s.  I will not be naming any of my children JoAnn, Michael, or Benjamin.  Why they can’t give craft stores sensible names like Chick-fil-A I don’t know.

As I approached the final register, circa 3:45, I found my heart failing me.  I simply didn’t want to do it any longer.  My wallet couldn’t take it; and what’s more, I had done my five questions for the day.  I didn’t want to ask.  I screwed my courage to the sticking point, and leaned across the counter.  In hushed, reverential tones I asked the clerk …

“Excuse me, do you have any contact paper?”

The lady—a petite sixty-five-year-old with a heavy French accent—made me repeat my humiliation like a replay of Versailles.  I spoke the question again, somewhat louder.  She shook her head, as one full of the regret.

This kind of regret.

“No,” she said.  “I do not think we carry it.”

Then she got on the phone—on the phone!—and paged the manager.  Well, at least paged someone.  A younger woman, who looked less like a person who did crafts and more like a professional something-or-other, and who confirmed that, indeed, they usually carried contact paper, but they were out.

Out?  OUT?!!

With a sinking heart, I paid for the partridge-painted napkins, and departed.  At least there had only been two other people in the store when the manager was paged.  And they hadn’t used my name.  But there was no doubt about it: I was a crafty failure.

And in the parking lot, I realized the full extent of my defeat.  I didn’t even want the contact paper any more.  In fact, I was rather afraid to go looking for it.  A deep conviction had settled into my soul that, in point of fact, if I had the contact paper in my hands I would be incapable of using it.  It would bubble up beneath my fingers, like the so many sheets that had disgraced the family book covers beneath those same fingers many years before, and my final incompetence in the matter of papering papers into posterish pictures would be established, so that not even the love of Tintoretto could save me.

Poor Me.

I wish I could say that the Doctor came and saved me, like he saved Harry.  But that would doubtless have been a much longer story, and one less edifyingly tragic.  Although, come to think of it, I’m at home right now, and maybe my mother knows where one can buy …

No.  Scratch that.  I’ll just borrow some contact paper.  In fact, I think I know exactly where it is right now.  Second shelf from the top, just a little higher than the kids can reach …

Cheerio, my good men!

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