IT'S 2 A.M. A blue and red neon sign glows in the front window. 97 Rock plays in the background. A lone figure stands behind a counter, waiting for action.
A bar on the Elmwood strip? A neighborhood gin mill?
Welcome to the all-night world of copying, printing, faxing, and computer crunching. Kinko's, at Sheridan Drive and Eggert Road, is a mecca for procrastinators.
A recent post-midnight foray found graphic designer Peter Law working on a sketch for a bank ad.
"I just got the assignment today and I have to have it in tomorrow," he said, as he stood at a long work table filled with staplers, a paper cutting machine, scissors, rulers and other equipment.
Nearby, University at Buffalo student Yiping Chen copied charts and graphs out of a library book for a mechanical engineering exam.
And Dave Miller ran in to copy recap sheets for the bowling lane proprietors he represents.
Here the desperate find copy machines, Apple Macintoshes with attached laser printers, fax machines, and rush printing that saves them from a failing grade or an angry boss.
Their goal is instant gratification: Do everything quickly and all in one place. And while there are many other copy stores in the area, none of them keeps its lights on and machines running all night long.
Mike Rhodes, who presides over Kinko's graveyard shift starting at 11:45 p.m., can't predict what the night will bring.
Besides the recent term paper rush, and this week's Christmas letter rush, customers walk in with all manner of requests. One used the color copier to make copies of his rocks for a geology class.
The manager of the rock group Goo Goo Dolls is a
frequent nocturnal visitor, coming in to design fliers and posters. And a dentist stops at 7 a.m. every day to copy patients' records on his way to the office, Rhodes said.
UB student Donna Bonar copied a book of Mayan cures that she had translated from Spanish into English, while Jim Meier cranked out the Science Fiction Animation Confederation newsletter for the club that was meeting -- yes, the next day -- to view Japanese animation movies.
"We're the crisis prevention center for students and procrastinators," said Adrianna Foss, corporate communications director, speaking by phone from Ventura, Calif.
Many customers take an "I'd rather do it myself" approach and head directly to copy machines or computers.
If they need help, said employee Bill Kramer, "we can tell by the looks on their faces."