Never let it be said that K Street law firms harbor humorless drones. Over at Abrams, Kovacs, Westermeier and Goldberg, 1735 K, they've got the whole office holding its sides -- and literally holding the bag.
Seems that at the Thomas Coffee Shop on the ground floor of 1735, the brown paper bags into which the carryout crew puts danish pastries and BLT's are signed.
That's right. Signed, as if they were art, down near the bottom. The same way Picasso and Rubens did it.
The coffee shop workers couldn't explain why signatures are on the bags, and no one at the law firm could, either. But lawyers know a good thing when they see one. According to James M. Goldberg, a partner at A, K, W and G, the firm has "embarked on a new adventure . . . We are developing the world's first -- and, hopefully, greatest -- collection of Designer Lunch Bags.
"Yes," writes Goldberg, warming to the task, "now there is hope for all of us working types who have yearned to emulate the moneyed crowd with their Guccis, Puccis, YSLs, Vuittons and the like . . . Someday, these anonymous toilers will become as famous as the Izod Alligator as a status symbol."
Goldberg must have known of my skeptical streak. He spent $1.22 of the firm's hard-earned cash to mail me 17 "originals." All were handed out at the coffee shop over the last few weeks to employes of the firm.
There's a "C. Zimmerman." A "Joe Walker." A "Harold Jones." A "Keith Sears." All are machine-signed in red or blue ink.
W.C. Godwin's machine signs his bags in script, no less. And there's nothing wrong with the ego of Dorothy Morris. Where the other 16 signatures are all preceeded by the phrase, "Manufactured by," Dorothy's bags bear only her name.
Is there method to this signatory madness? Indeed so, according to Lou Silverman, customer service representative at the Northeast Division headquarters of Georgia Pacific, where the "bag artists" toil.
The name you see on the bottom of each Georgia Pacific bag "refers to the machine operator who runs the machine on which the bag is manufactured," Silverman said. The name is there to encourage "the worker to take pride in his product" and to allow Georgia Pacific to determine who's responsible for a defective bag, or batch of them, Silverman says.
At the law firm, however, fingers are being pointed in the spirit of negotiation, not of accusation.
Secretaries have been known to put clients on hold while they bargain over a rare "John Chambers." Like little boys with baseball cards, associates will say, "I'll give you one Eliza Hughes for two A. J. Whites."
Meanwhile, partners have spent days litigating this question: if a summer intern goes to get sandwiches, and returns with them in a light brown "Wayne Shiflett," does the intern get the bag, or does it go to the partner who sprang for lunch?
I wish everyone at the law firm well in his elusive search for the perfect "John Chambliss." But I'll have to decline Jim Goldberg's invitation to "be the first on your block, as we are most certainly the first on ours," to start a bag collection.
As my waistline knows only too well, I'd rather look past the bag, and its signature, to the contents.