Thursday, June 16, 2011

Original Originals

orig·i·nal noun \ə-ˈrij-ə-nəl, -ˈrij-nəl\
1 archaic : the source or cause from which something arises; specifically : originator
2a : that from which a copy, reproduction, or translation is made b : a work composed firsthand
3a : a person of fresh initiative or inventive capacity b : a unique or eccentric person

From time to time you hear about someone being "most unique" or something "reverting back" and, if you are like me (or my dear wife, the English professor) you wince. These are classics from the Department of Redundancy Department.

It was not until I was employed in the construction industry that I encountered the concept of "multiple originals." After all, I worked for twenty-five years in the comic book business and original art was just that, a single piece of artwork created by the artist(s).

Not so in construction. When I was working at Preload, handling the billings, we would occasionally have a customer that would ask for more than one copy of the invoice. We were building a tank in a small town in Maine when I first encountered the need to provide "six originals" of the bill. I joked at the time that it seemed that everyone in that small town wanted his or her own copy of the bill, but I was serious when I said that there could only be one original. "The second one, even if it is an exact copy, is a duplicate," I explained. "The third one is a triplicate." And so on. It fell on deaf ears.

Well, I made my point, at least to my own satisfaction. I made six Xerox copies of the original and we signed and notarized each one. Then I put the original in our file and sent the six copies off to Maine. Each month that we billed them, I did the same thing. They thought they had six originals; actually, they had none.

As the comptroller at Combined Resources Interiors, I still handle the billings. And the demand for multiple originals is far more prevalent. And they want multiples not only of the invoices, but of the waivers and releases as well. Just this afternoon I had a conversation with an accountant at the General Contractor we work for; she said she would need four originals of the paperwork. "You realize that, by definition, only one of them can be the original," I said. She wasn't getting it and replied, "Okay, but I still need four."

As I did at Preload, I handle the need for multiple originals the same way. However many they want, the photocopies are made and all of them are signed and notarized. That seems to keep them happy.

But every now and then I threaten to go into the fine print in the waivers and releases and affidavits and change a few words in each copy. Because that would make each one original!

1 comment:

  1. I had a similar situation at the software company I used to work for. The last few pages in the product manual each had the statement, "This page intentionally left blank." I argued that, once that sentence was printed, the page was no longer blank; so if the intent was to leave them blank, it failed miserably. After a year or two, someone decided to appease me and changed the pages to read, "This page intentionally left almost blank."