Thursday, November 25, 2010


You know, spending a lifetime immersed in reading, following, and teaching Literature can have certain drawbacks and even embarrassing moments. Let me explain. First, there's the cringe factor: every time I see usually a young person being interviewed on TV, there's inevitably 4 grammar faux pas or colloquialisms uttered by this individual. They are: I seen, like, basically, and "and stuff". "I seen" is a grammar mistake. It's I have seen, or, the not often used, "I saw". "Like" is like used all of the time. "Basically:" well, hey, it's a big word; makes you sound educated and stuff. "And stuff": I haven't a clue why so many people use this; it's inclusive, I suppose. It's handy because it keeps the person from elaborating. So a sentence spoken would go this way: "yeah, well, I seen 'em and thar like all dressed up in robes and stuff, basically putting on a show". Cringe.

I'm a compulsive reader---I read everything I see. It's a quirk I have, probably stemming from my early childhood when I had a little difficulty learning to read. I practiced daily on signs, notices, papers, etc.---anything with writing on it. I'll give you an example of my compulsion. Waiting in a doctor's office can take more than an hour sometimes, and while I'm sitting and waiting I'm reading all the signs and posters on the wall---many times. One doctor use to have a poster listing 100 things you should do to live a healthy life. I read all 100---many times. I'd groan when I had to go to his waiting room. Oh, it's not debilitating or anything like that, and I am relaxed and can divert my attention at any time, but as the time wears on I will eventually start reading signs and posters again. My wife counts. Yes, like that Count muppet on Sesame Street. My mother counted too; I didn't know that until late in life. My dad use to keep time to the songs from the always-on jukebox playing in a loop in his head. I read. You know, the mind is indeed a strange thing sometimes.

Sometimes my reading compulsion combined with being a stickler can result in a rather embarrassing moment. This is an example of that; it happened recently.

I walked into the office of a local garage wanting some work done on my car. The proprietor behind the desk was busy talking to another costumer about tie rods or the like. I waited my turn, and so, I looked at the wall, saw a sign and read. This was one of those changeable message signs with white letters seemingly stuck in certain grooves. I read it. The sign was stating the garage's policy, I suppose; giving its mission statement including privacy, integrity, and value. It ended by saying that they value the costumer alot. "alot". I've dealt with this word a lot in teaching over the years. "a lot" is TWO words, not one, yet many people insist on combining it.

I stared at the sign, and wondered whether it would be an easy maneuver to pull the "lot" away from the "a". The two guys were deep in the discussion on tie rods, and I had the time to do this, and saw a need, obviously. I headed over to the sign, but immediately encountered much difficulty in trying to slide the "lot" away from the "a". I tried to force it, it nudged a bit. The proprietor said to me, "Can I help you? Is there a problem?" I without thinking said, "I'm trying to slide the "lot" away from the "a". Then I quickly realized just how oddly strange my retort must have sounded. I wheeled around to face the two men who were now watching me with intense, concerned looks. I stammered a bit saying that "a lot" is two words, not one. That there's no such word as alot. Then I realized to my added embarrassment that that statement is not true, and I said, "Well, allot IS a word, but its spelled a l l o t, and means to give out, or to...ah, but this a lot...a lot is two words. I was just fixing..." The customer with crinkled brow piped up and asked me, "Are you an English teacher?" I sighed, calmed down and said weakly "yes". They kind of shook their heads, and went back to the tie rod debate. I thought that amazing. This odd behaviour is easily explained by the fact that I'm an English teacher. "English teachers, they do that sort of thing." But when the costumer had left, and I was still trying to nudge the "a" away from the "lot" , the proprietor smiled and said that he would fix the sign later. And I did get my car fixed.

Hey, I'm a granddad! We have a beautiful, beautiful grandson. Sometimes in life absolutely wonderful things will happen. This is definitely one of those times.

Oh, sorry, I didn't talk about books this post. But I will in the next. I would like to take the top ten books sold this month and explain why I won't bother to read them. That should make lot of people upset.