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Know Your Type


Scott Birdsall


Thomas Mangan

The war was over, the fighting had stopped, and now they were just killing time until the generals told them they could go home.  But the generals weren’t quite ready to do that, so to pass the time the generals had them pack up everything in the barracks and get it ready to ship home.

So they packed everything, and it was the strangest collection of junk that they’d ever seen, the kind of stuff you’d find in the bottom of the closet in the hallway: knick-knacks, throw pillows, old shoes, torn shirts, and even the odd sock or two.  They even packed up the dust balls.  Throughout their time in the service, they had learned that when the generals say everything, the generals mean everything.  They threw it all into cardboard boxes, and all the boxes were the same: long, rectangular, and lined with white packing paper. It didn’t make any sense, but theirs not to reason why.  Soldiers don’t have that privilege.  So they filled the boxes, sealed them with packing tape, and pushed the boxes out the door, without shipping labels.  They had no idea where the boxes were being shipped to.  For all they knew, the boxes would wind up gathering dust in an isolated warehouse or a barracks building similar to the one they were in now, with other soldiers having to unpack the long cardboard boxes and distribute their contents throughout the building, even the dust balls, because Uncle Sam believes everything means everything.

But that’s the way it is, was, and ever shall be with Uncle Sam, so they packed the boxes, pushed them out the door onto the porch, and hoped that it didn’t rain.  Because if it rained?  They’d have to push the wet cardboard boxes back inside and start all over again. But what else is new?

Thomas Mangan is a freelance writer who lives in Brockport, a beautiful Erie Canal town in western New York.  He’s a Vietnam veteran who has made his living for the past forty years writing everything from user manuals to advertising copy to a blog.

Scott Birdsall is a Southern California based graphic designer.  He first fell in love with typography while spending hours in his father's letterpress print shop, exploring the cases full of lead type-fonts, and he misses the days when graphic design involved getting your hands dirty.