2.20.2010

Dymo Labels


When I was seven or eight, my mom's Aunt Lillian gave me a Dymo label maker for Christmas. This plastic handheld device predated the Brother P-Touch by a generation, and was invented the same decade Steve Jobs was born. As stocking stuffers go, this contraption seemed as likely to engender Christmas cheer as the proverbial lump of coal. Not being like most kids my age, I loved it. Now I could label everything. GI Joe's footlocker. The transformer on my Aurora slotcar set. Socks and underwear drawers. My BB gun. My toothbrush. I plowed through the first roll of black plastic strip inside the Dymo gun before Uncle Joe could carve the holiday ham.

Finally! A typesetting device that made obsessive compulsion, anal retention and personal inventory ID easy! The Dymo label maker was my first introduction to the form and function of typesetting. With every turn of the wheel and click of the trigger another quarter inch of black tape flicked out of the Dymo's mouth like a bad cliché on a talking serpent's tongue:

H A R O L D M C G . . . .

Creating labels was painfully slow, and offered zero room for error.

H A R O D . . .

Fuck! Twist the wheel to "scissor," squeeze the trigger and start over.

One night around New Year's when mom was serving the last can of B E A N I E W E I N I E S in the house, she realized it was time to show me new ways to use my Dymo labeler. She'd used some version of my wondrous machine before, because her bony fingers spun and clicked out sentences I had never dreamed of:

S H E W A S O N L Y T H E M O O N S H I N E R ' S
D A U G H T E R , B U T T H E Y
L O V E D H E R S T I L L

"How did you do that?" I squealed.

"You've got to concentrate and think," she told me. "Stay focused on what you're trying to say, and make every word count."

Most boys who got Dymo label makers for Christmas that year used them like phasers in a game of extraterrestrial Cowboys and Indians, immobilizing the bad guys by setting their weapons on K I L L or S T U N.

Make every word count.

Thanks for the Dymo, Aunt Lillian, and thanks to mom for the good advice.



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1 comment:

Brittany said...

I played with one of these as a child as well. It was one of many curious objects found in the cabinets of the 80 year old hoarder's home my dad had purchased. Unfortunately, mine was taken away after I repeatedly defaced the house with some matter-of-fact labeling. The only thing the Brother P-Touch has on the Dymo is that it retains the prior entry on the screen when it's turned on. Fun to leave messages like SATAN SAYS KILL for the next user. When you work in an office, anyway.