Forty-eight Pop-Tarts

February 19th, 2008

Pop-Tart

Somerville, MA

Somehow I’m left with approximately two weeks until my intended departure date, even less if you count the “official” start date of the TEAL field trip as March 1, during which Jane and I will scout out typos in the greater Boston area (lest anyone accuse me or other members of the League of the dread sin of Northeastern elitism). I realize that I still have a lot of preparation to go. Burning questions such as “Where can two young men stay for the cheapest in Beaufort, North Carolina?” and “How can a body continually enjoy cold beverages on the highway without the benefit of a portable icemaker?” plague my mind and poison my sleep. All right, maybe it’s not that dire, but I’m still wondering how I’ll pull all this shit together in time. In the name of typo correction, though, I must persevere!

The trip will include a marvelous range of accommodations, including at least a few nights in a cavernous tent slung up in dark and lonely locales. So I was thankful that the “mummy”-style sleeping bag I cashed in my credit card points for– my polyester sarcophagus, if you will– arrived at my door this past Friday and not in 4-6 weeks (or forty-six weeks, as my grandfather used to say). I would be pleased if other vital pieces of equipment for the trip simply arrived at my house, summoned by some benevolent god of comfortable and economic traveling, but I suspect that I’ll have to do the legwork myself. I did recently purchase the first provisions for our journey. I spied a 48-count steamer trunk of Pop-Tarts on sale at Shaw’s and immediately called Benjamin.

Jeff: “Do you like Pop-Tarts?”

Benjamin: “Yeah, of course!”

Jeff: “Do you really like Pop-Tarts?”

I reckon that this abundance of toaster pastries–two dozen brown sugar cinnamon and two dozen frosted strawberry– should account for a major portion of our sustenance on the road. Peanut butter also sounds like a good idea. Bread. Things in cans. Getting back to the basics, just like our pioneer ancestors. My mother made a gift of five bars of soap, which will surely prove useful as my companions and I bathe in streams in secret glens to slough off the dust of the road. Or in the sink at McDonald’s.

For those rare occasions when Pop-Tarts prove inadequate, we can consult a book that I purchased, called Jane and Michael Stern’s Roadfood. The worthy, iron-gulleted couple cited in the title bring to the reader an overview of the best shacks, stands, and diners in our great nation. Also, I will be installing a “Donate Food” button above the comments section. A visitor to this site can click the button at any time to donate via PayPal, any major credit card, or against the credit of the Argentinian national bank. Upon completion of the transaction, a small door in the dashboard of my car will open, ejecting filets and hamsteaks onto the passenger seat. Please click often.

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A Long-expected Party, or, Leaving the Shire

February 25th, 2008

wall artSomerville, MA

I had a going-away party at my house in Somerville on Saturday. Still not going to be leaving town for another nine days or so, but I figured best have the party before I start really obsessing over the last minutiae of preparations for the trip. I set up a Typo Creation Station in the living room, where guests could make their favorite typo and put it on the wall with sticky letters. Construction paper for cutting out states, real or metaphysical, was also provided. Some twenty-odd people showed up, and by the end of the evening the walls were covered with choice erroneous samples and all manner of bizarre cutouts. Needless to say, I was touched. I was even more moved by the well wishes and various offerings that my friends brought me to sweeten my months on the road. Now I have everything from a collection of comedic albums to a traditional hula-girl dash-enhancer to homemade road tunes to a ridiculously generous pair of gift cards that could serve well as bail should I occasion the wrath of some pastoral sheriff in the cradle of America. That’s one r and two f’s, mind you.

I started to think to myself what a fool I was for planning to leave these singular people behind for two and a half months, after I’d somehow been lucky enough to come into the grace of their friendship. And Jane for a month and a half, until I meet with her for our journey across the vast northern plains. Then my thoughts wandered to the even darker specter of what might happen if I only get into my grad school choices out in the far West. Yes, I always know what needs to be done, but that doesn’t make it any less wrenching. I understand, finally, how some folks, hell, many folks end up staying in the same area their whole lives. You draw the skeins of human connection about you until at last you feel that you belong. The fact that I’ve happened to fall in with people of remarkable warmth, humor, and generosity certainly doesn’t make it any easier.

But here is our chilly reality. I’m two days away from my twenty-eighth birthday, perilously close to the time when one must Get One’s Shit Together once and for all. This could be the last opportunity I have both the time and the funds for such a ludicrous adventure, before I go and really wreck my career for good. (Or, Inshallah, return to the snug bosom of academia for a spell.) This could also be the moment that I, and my illustrious companions in the service of TEAL, change the world. A fantasy, perhaps, but if the only way I have to make a dent in the world’s great hull of indifference is through alleviating a few verbal eyesores, then so be it.

So, my friends, I gots to do what I gots to do, but I’ll be back. And don’t believe for a hot second that I won’t be thinking of you all the while as I navigate the marvels and perils of this impossibly vast country.

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It’s curtains for typos

March 2nd, 2008

Somerville, MA

You are familiar, I’m sure, with the popular aphorism that typo correction begins in the home. With that in mind, I went into my bathroom this afternoon, intending my first eradications to beautify my shower curtain. It is a singular model, festooned with mathematic principles, and I count it the sole reason that I was able to do so well on the math portion of the GRE last year after several years of virtual inactivity in the sphere of numbers and their relations. Every morning I would sit on the john and gaze at the formula for calculating the volume of a cylinder, or the fine distinction between a mean and a median. However, eventually I became aware of two ugly blots in that otherwise unblemished tapestry of knowledge. I present them here… be warned these images are not suitable for all audiences.

From 03-02-08 Somerville MA
From 03-02-08 Somerville MA

Today, I’d start my campaign of typo eradication on a very personal note. Today, I’d rid my own bathroom of typos. A few dabs of white-out and some careful marker work yielded the following results:

From 03-02-08 Somerville MA
From 03-02-08 Somerville MA

Victory most supreme! I stood there with the power of orthographic righteousness coursing through my once-sluggish veins, and I knew, as I know now, cherished readers, that thus shall be delivered the grace of TEAL across this tremendous nation. Tomorrow and Tuesday I shall venture out into Somerville and Boston at large to stamp out what base errors I can find (and frantically finish packing). Then on Wednesday, TEAL hits the road for serious. We will course down the east coast, through the dark barony of Connecticut. Our first stop will be in the city that invariably considers itself the greatest city in the world, that metropolis of metropoli, that churning, glittering sea of self-absorbed humanity– oh yes, we loves you, New York City!

‘Til then, we have some unfinished business in Massachusetts, you and I. Let us illumine the crooked streets and gloomy alleys with the incandescence of proper spelling. And we will depart as heroes!

Totals
Typos Found: 1
Typos Corrected: 1

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Rank Cowardice

March 3rd, 2008

Somerville, MA

Today Boston decided to take a hesitant nip of the great intoxicating dew of spring, with temperatures hovering around the mid-forties. The sun was bright in a clear sky. I ventured down the red line on the T and into the western warren of green line branches for a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon. Specifically I was going to pay forty dollars to have a man jam a slender tube down my nostril and into my throat. Such are the joys of having a budget genero-plan, one of the cheaper options among the gallery of extortion that Massachusetts presented me with once I left my job at MIT. As of recently, the state began to require all its residents to have some kind of health insurance or else face financial penalties, loss of tax exemption status, mutilation from barbed weapons, etc. I got taken in by a plan that looked relatively affordable on the surface but has slammed me repeatedly with outrageous copays.

I arrived at the facility and went through the first round of check-in. As the bearded, earringed young man behind the counter leafed through my wallet, I spied a stack of business cards to my left and picked one up. And oh, I was filled with a kind of world-muting dread.

“Excuse me,” I said to the young man, “there’s a typo on these cards.”

He examined the card I handed him. “Oh, I never noticed that.” He did sound genuinely embarrassed on behalf of Brighton Marine Medical Center.

“I suppose this will never be fixed,” I said.

“No,” he said, shaking his head, “there must be thousands of these cards.”

I was struck by melancholy at the thought of the error propagated so many times already, and probably slated to do so again with the next printing run. What could one man do about such a large-scale fuckup? The answer, I decided, was probably nothing.

After my appointment, which featured an extended manhandling of my face so that the doctor could point out my nodes to a fresh-faced blonde resident named Becky, I stepped out once again into the actually pleasant Boston afternoon and determined to scout out some typos downtown in the iconic Copley Square. I boarded an ancient green line trolley among a gabby passel of high-schoolers and soon arrived at my destination, beneath the glimmering phallus of Hancock Tower. I wandered along Boylston Avenue until I came to a Filene’s Basement in the loathsomely named Newb’ry complex, and I knew that to find and correct a choice error here would be to apply balm to the very soul of Boston.

Filene’s has been a name long associated with Boston, through the department store of that name and the separately owned Filene’s Basement properties, which started in the space beneath the original department store in Downtown Crossing. I was doing a temporary assignment at the corporate offices of Filene’s during its final days before being swallowed up and obliterated by Macy’s, scanning document after document into their systems for months. Down below, Filene’s Basement hastened to assure its customers that while Filene’s was going the way of the buffalo, that Basement would remain open for business. Less than two years later they shuttered as well, leaving the whole of the massive building from roof to cellar an empty shell haunted by the spirits of the unemployed. However, by that time the “Newb’ry” location was open, and so Filene’s Basement retains a presence in Boston… at least for now.

There on Boylston, the Basement is no basement at all, but a ground-level facility that dares even to have a second floor. I prowled its aisles in search of typos, for a good while missing the very obvious one hanging above my head for all the congregation of shoppers to see. Click to enlarge.

In the picture it’s a bit too small to see, but the “boxed ties” sign provides an even grosser perversion of Men’s than the hanging sign: “MENS’ BOXED TIES.” Regardless, I was transfixed by that institutionalized error floating above my head, flaring in red. And here, reader, is where I am ashamed to go further, but I must in good journalistic faith: I did nothing about the typo.

Did I alert the manager of Filene’s Basement to this vile and permanent mistake that had daily been sullying his store’s reputation for who knew how long, perhaps since the place had opened? No, I did not. Did I mention to a sales clerk the presence of the error, in the hopes that a momentary adventure up a sturdy ladder could both right what was wrong and perhaps make said clerk a hero before his or her fellows? I did not, reader, and I suspected afterward that I was possessed of the rankest cowardice… a failing that could have actually been at work earlier in the day, too, in the affair of the thousands of business cards. Had I then, either, made any effort to appeal to upper management for rectification? No, I had contented myself with an offhand remark to a person of doubtless little influence in the sphere of card-printing.

O readers, I am afraid that I must get over this inhibition, for the world’s sake and yours. I know that cowardice may be very well be an operating principle for this mission, though. Already I know that I will probably shy from attempting to correct errors in places that I am eating or sleeping, or at least until after the vital service has been transacted. Vulgar truthsayers may point to a certain expression about not releasing foeces in the same venue you partake of nourishment. So, too, was cowardice firmly at the controls when I peeled all of the yowling bleeding-heart political bumper stickers off Callie, my car (with the exception of the Howard Dean specimen, which proved as tenacious as Governor Dean himself and which I was forced to paper over with Beck-themed stickers). I kept thinking about my impending passage through firm red-state demesnes and the rancor that the stickers might provoke, a rancor that might only be assuaged by forcefully applying blunt objects to my windows.

I will do my best from here on, though, to pursue the actual eradication of typos with the fervor that TEAL’s mission statement demands. You should expect no less from a bearer of our vaunted standard.

Totals
Typos Found: 3
Typos Corrected: 1

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Faux Island Paradise

March 4th, 2008

Somerville, MA

Just a short one tonight, as I’m busy with the final round of packing for the trip. I would like to invite you back in time to the weekend, when I happened to be in CVS, unprepared for serious typo-seeking and yet unable to turn off the natural sensor in my brain. Thus it is only in poor camera-phone quality that I present to you the following typo:

This was not a full-scale tropical hut, of course, but a miniature piece of lawn ornamentation, or… something. It should be no surprise, regardless, that this little slice of tribalist fantasy was on the discount rack of a drugstore. No serious masked bartender could survive in this economy for long slinging pina coladas for a dollar. In any case, I needed to wipe out that unwelcome apostrophe but was, as I mentioned, unprepared and without my handy bottle of white-out. So I liberated a small corner of the label of a nearby bottle of mouthwash.

Now that particular product is safe for purchase, though the guy in the mask still looks pretty pissed.

All right, when next I write you, I shall be (hopefully) in the greater New York area, imposing on friends in Hoboken. Now that the website has made its official debut, some of you may actually be reading this and the older entries. Let me know if you’re curious about who’s behind all that fantastic Flash-work.

Totals
Typos Found: 4
Typos Corrected: 2

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Greens of New Jersey

March 5th, 2008

Hoboken, NJ

In the midst of frantically trying to cram all of my crap into poor Callie today, while making the necessary sacrifices (didn’t need that camp chair anyway, but I am kind of sad about leaving the canned tuna behind), I fielded a call from a person associated with NPR. The Bryant Park Project, a morning show based out of the Isle of Manahatta, was interested in our humble error-hunting adventure. So I will be interviewed in their studio tomorrow morning– apparently the show will subsequently be available courtesy of an Intertube at http://www.npr.org/bryantpark. Hopefully I don’t make myself sound like a dolt or a jackanapes, but the possibility is very real.

So I set off under alternately darkening and lightening skies, a weird pageant of the weather gods unable to make up their minds. Callie and I were assailed by some feeble spurts of rain here and there, but otherwise the drive down to New Jersey was pleasant on the whole, particularly on the Merritt Parkway. The stern female presence within my GPS guided me from throughway to forgotten byway. I shall call her Authority, as she is surely the voice of. When a policeman forbade my last-minute entry into the groaning queue for the Lincoln Tunnel, I panicked and shot on into the writhing streets of the city, but Authority was there, she was. Gently but firmly she commanded me to make a few quick turns, and then I was on the proper path again. I didn’t enjoy the tunnel itself– buses seemed to be pushing me inexorably toward unforgiving concrete wall the entire time– but at least I was heading in the right direction.

And then Hoboken, in the glow of an intimate sunset. Every gang member I saw seemed to have a spring in his youthful step. I found my friends’ apartment building, but as they were not home yet, I decided to enjoy the environment and citizenry of the town from within my car for a while with the doors locked. Actually, once mine hosts arrived, they led me down to the main drag of Hoboken, Washington Street, and I was impressed by the handsome restaurant and shop facades (sorry, no cedilla) lining the sidewalks. Even the banks looked like they could be decent places to eat, if only they had food. After dinner, we stopped in at a corner market, and I spotted a specimen of interest.

While my friends made their purchases, I approached the shopkeeper, a kindly Asian lady, and asked if I could correct the SCALION. “I’ve got a pen,” I said. “I can just draw in the L, if that’s okay.”

She thought it a strange request but gave the go-ahead. I took out a pen and started to sketch in the L, but the ink refused its summons. I tried another, borrowed a couple of pens, but could not produce more than a faint impression on the paper. I realized that even our brief walk around Washington Street in the cold (for it was still scarf weather, in my book) had had an adverse effect on the ink in our pens. I took a picture of the meager scratching that the pens had left, but it wouldn’t come out. You know what, though, campers? I’m still counting this one as a fix, if only because I helped the shopkeeper become aware of the error.

As for whether I’m already breaking my internal vow, the one about refraining from attempts to correct the handiwork of persons whose first language clearly is not English, well… let’s leave that debate for another day.

I have a bonus typo for you, cherished readers. I only noticed it after the fact, but the camera does not lie. Did you spot it hidden in the photo above?

Totals
Typos Found: 5
Typos Corrected: 3

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A Face for Radio, and Something Very, Very Special

March 6th, 2008

Hoboken, NJ

I rose this morning at what some colloquially refer to as the butt-crack of dawn, surprisingly without too much difficulty in doing so. Anxiety levels fluttered a bit above normal. But the interview at NPR went okay, I think, and you can listen to it at this link. (Welcome, by the way, to the number of public radio fans that have turned up commenting on this blog.) When I left the studio, it was just before 8 am, and I had a whole day of blundering around Manhattan ahead of me.

I’d brought along my typo correction kit, if such a rude collection of primitive materials could be called that, and I had my laptop with me in the naive hope that this the center of the universe would have an abundance of free wi-fi hotspots. That turned out to be far from reality, and so a good part of the day was eaten up by wandering around Midtown trying to get my internet on. And, later, drinking alone in an Applebee’s, an activity I do not recommend. Nevertheless, I did make a few choice discoveries.

The first was in a Duane Reade on the Avenue of the Americas. They seem to have cornered the drugstore market in New York, yet even such a titan of industry turned out to have a vulnerable flank, which is that (at least in the store I visited) all the sale signs had been manually typed in prominent letters. Thus the truncating of a popular chocolate.

An understandable mistake, but one that still needed to die. (Note that ‘Irresistibile’ is not a typo, though, as Ferrero Rocher is an Italian company.)

Next I ventured down into the bowels of Rockefeller Center, to a subterranean gift shop. They had amid their touristy bric-a-brac a bunch of those cheesy You-Mean-So-Much-to-Me-type pseudopoems in frames on display. One of them gave me pause:

A salesperson approached, dusting some nearby cabinets. She seemed reasonable and dedicated, so I decided to bring this issue to her attention. “Hi there,” I said. “This has a typo, here.”

She examined the picture in the general area I indicated. “I don’t see any.”

“Your, right here. Should be you’re, yeah?”

“No,” she said, blinking at me. “That’s right.”

“Well, actually… no. It’s not.”

“It is,” she persisted. “You’re, with the apostrophe, is the possessive, isn’t it?” She gripped the picture tighter and moved slowly over the rest of the text above. “Yeah, see? Your, your, your. All these other ones are your, so this one is too.”

“Your is the possessive,” I said gently. I was starting to feel bad– my companion in repartee had probably not been the beneficiary of the education I’d originally imagined her to have (if that’s enough of a strained euphemism for you). “You’re is a contraction, for you are.”

“All right, well, see, it’s possessing the fact that the you is special. So your very, very special.”

I was starting to sweat now. How dare I come in here and verbally assault this poor woman? What had given me the right? I couldn’t leave without pressing my point, though. “The problem, you see, is that we don’t have a noun here. It doesn’t say your very, very special face.” At the blank look I received, I tried to smile. “But hey, never mind, let’s not waste too much brainpower on this, eh?”

She replaced the picture on the shelf. “Everybody’s got their own interpretation of what’s right.”

Indeed they do. I ascended into the light of aboveground to peer over Prometheus’s shoulder at some skaters on the frozen oval. I began to wonder if the rest of the journey would follow this same pattern, if I’d continually end up this ogre haunting the less privileged and recent immigrants for the sake of furthering my pet cause. Such a fate seemed at odds with the beliefs that I was sure I held. Could I not be a liberal and correct typos at the same time? Maybe it could be reconciled… we were supposed to be uppity bastards, after all.

In any case, I got hungry for a deli sandwich before long, the kind I remembered from visits to New York past, and I turned my purposes to sating this hunger, albeit in a meandering, haphazard fashion. I went into one place near Times Square that sort of resembled what a deli might look like after Cosi or Au Bon Pain had pissed on it. The guy behind the deli counter tried to sell me on their hot goods, but when I told him I was interested in a sandwich, he gestured in a dismissive way toward the prewrapped iterations. I let out a little gasp as a sea of typos confronted me. I present two of the most egregious:


I mean, come on, guys. Mediterrian? You weren’t even trying. And not even Monster Cheese can bring something like Parmasan into my good graces. I was hungry, but I knew that I could not eat here. Thus the marker was unleashed.


Ah, the world was at peace once again. I left that place and ended up at the Starlite Deli, which looked familiar once I was inside. I’m almost positive that I visited that deli seven and a half years ago, during my dead-end PR internship in New York, drawn then as I was now by the near-mystical promise of that establishment’s name… even if it does indulge in the contemptible lite/nite trend. The Black Forest ham sammich did not disappoint.

Later, at dinner with friends at a Latin food place in the Lower East Side, I tried to at least commemorate the misspelling of “Heineken” in the drink menu, but candlelight was not sufficient for my camera. The typo remained unreported to management, as per the rules of cowardice that I mentioned earlier.

Finally, here is a dog in a bicycle helmet. I think I’m ready to move on from this place.

Totals
Typos Found: 8
Typos Corrected: 5

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High Beefstakes

March 7th, 2008

Lansdowne, PA

I learned a vital lesson today. The drive out of Hoboken started off nice enough; I glimpsed Lady Liberty far off beyond a concrete barrier, and was treated to a view of some beautiful industrial derricks, wreathed in the wistful haze of air pollution. I had my elaborate audio contrivance spinning me tracks from the latest album of an artist known as Seal, and I was actually getting a little misty-eyed during his gently idiotic duet with his supermodel wife about their unassailable love. I felt happy for him. We went way back, after all. All was cool this day on the New Jersey Turnpike.

Then it started to rain. At the same time, I began to suspect the god-voice in my GPS, Authority, to be screwing with me. Was I really supposed to get off the Turnpike here? The rain increased in intensity. Now it was definitely headlight weather. The wheel in my hands remained level, yet Callie’s tires began to insist on their own vector, and I got nervous. After all, it had only been a week or so ago that she had run me into a snowbank in Maine when I was on my way to visit Jane, thanks to an abrupt squall that covered the roads in thin but treacherous white. Callie’s steering, a little gamey even at the best of times, had failed me then, and I didn’t want her to let me down again so soon. I took the next exit… ever so gently.

When faced with a choice of Burlington or Bordentown, I chose the latter for its more forgiving ramp. Now I just needed a place to stop and wait out the rain for a few minutes. The first candidate was a house of tarot and fortune-telling, but I could just picture the horror movie exposition there, dreary rain included. Instead I went on and pulled into the lot of Roma Bank, apparently a financial institution for gypsies. There I waited, ate Pop Tarts, and finally departed about forty-five minutes later in rain that was just as heavy as it had been forty-five minutes ago. The last thing I wanted to do was get on another slick highway.

“Maybe you don’t have to,” murmured Authority.

“Eh?”

“Follow Burlington Road for a while,” Authority suggested. “I’ll tell you where to go. You’ll get where you’re going… eventually.”

I should have resisted the temptation to put my trust entirely in her–in it, but I hadn’t made adequate preparations of my own beforehand on the internet. Here is the lesson that I learned today: Do not put full stock in a machine, f’Chrissake. The next couple of hours were a smeary blur as Authority sadistically led me through the practical heart of Philadelphia, with the requisite logjam of homicidal motorists, while where I wanted to go wasn’t really in the city at all. I imagined I could hear the echo of a demonic titter from within the machine attached to my windshield as poor Callie and I juddered over roads inlaid with slippery metal tracks for trolley cars.

Then, thankfully, the horrific ride came to an end, and I’d arrived at my friend Raisha’s place in Lansdowne, a suburb just outside Philly proper. Raisha’s generous attention to my comfort went a long way towards negating the bleakness of the drive down. Eventually I got back into a typo-hunting kind of mood, and she found one in her very own apartment to act as a warm-up exercise.

Oh, Mr. Thorogood! Already I grow weary of you and your ilk. How much effort does it really take to make your possessive a possessive? Surely less than it took to render that exquisite twine-work framing the band name. I had, of course, some white-out that would be able to act in this case as a white-in.

Once I’d explained a little more about the goals and processes of the League, Raisha agreed to come along on an expedition for our lofty cause. She suggested a nearby grocery store as a venue likely in need of our assistance. About ten seconds after we’d entered the place (mostly empty and echoing at nine pm on a Friday), I spotted a bold and egregious error in the produce section.

A stake through the heart of all that is righteous and good! I glanced around for an employee of the grocery store so that I could bring the error to the proper attention. However, it appeared that the entire staff had gathered together by the registers for some dark purpose, so no one was really around to care. Only one thing left to do, then.

Raisha got caught up in the spirit of TEAL’s adventures and went a little ahead along the cooler aisles, scrutinizing each sign. We found a bunch more apostrophe omissions a la Thorogood, but I had gotten bored with such commonplace villainy, much in the same way that cops must get tired of arresting the same petty infractors over and over. Then Raisha caught something and called me over.

Delicious! Pomegranite, o favored fruit of prospectors and geologists across the land! This was a deep and cleansing fix, a rejuvenating blow against indifference.

We finished our circuit of the store and headed back across the front, toward the exit. Apparently the den meeting of cashiers and bagboys had ended, as two of the employees were now busy lifting big signs to plaster on the front of the store. I paused as I noted what sign they were working on now: a giant version of the words bearing the typo I thought I had eradicated for good. BEEFSTAKE TOMATOES. No, old enemy, you will not rise again stronger than before!

“Excuse me,” I said, “I hate to interrupt, but I believe that ‘Beefstake’ is spelled wrong. It should be s-t-e-a-k.”

The guy on the ladder favored me with a look of searing apathy. “What, are we missing a letter?” Without waiting for an answer, he turned from me and affixed the sign to the glass, showcasing the error for the world to see. And with that, my work was undone.

Tomorrow: down to the D.C. area, where Benjamin joins the mission.

Totals
Typos Found: 11
Typos Corrected: 7

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Blowing the Raspberry

March 8th, 2008

Silver Spring, MD

Since I’m talking about Saturday in this entry, I’ve backdated it to the 8th. I learned a couple more valuable lessons on Saturday– how my education grows and grows! One is to find typos earlier in the day to avoid a late-night rush to scrutinize every miserable nugget of text around me. The other is that finding typos while in an alcoholic haze is a near-impossible undertaking.

One lesson already learned, that of not blindly putting my trust in Authority, was well put to use on the drive from Lansdowne to the D.C. area. I had prepared beforehand in Raisha’s apartment, printing out directions from Google Maps, and so when Authority attempted to direct me off Garrett Road before I was supposed to leave it, I responded with a crisp “Not this time, lady!” Eventually, to my satisfaction, Authority fell in with my directions and was helpful from then on. Yes, I thought, she can be trained. The weather was less than fun, once again, with heavy rain and wind most of the way, but I kept Callie going slow in the righthand lane for most of the journey. As I approached southern Maryland, I could see a patch of blue sky ahead, crowning a row of plump, inviting cumuli. When I rolled into Silver Spring, the bright sun and warmth seemed to me a hero’s welcome. Or at least a hint of pity.

I’d be staying the night at Benjamin’s girlfriend’s place; Jenny and Benjamin were gracious enough to let me intrude with my sleeping bag and my assorted crap before I stole the man away from his lady for about twenty-five days. You’ll be hearing a lot about Benjamin, I wager, but I should offer a brief introduction of my first traveling companion (were this one of my beloved role-playing video games, first a triumphant midi would play and then you’d see the message “Benjamin has joined the party!”). Mr. Benjamin D. Herson is an old friend that I first became acquainted with in a writing workshop sophomore year in college. It would touch off several years of collaboration and support in the heady and crushing world of fiction writing. After graduation we moved down to D.C. to get an apartment together for the purpose of co-writing a novel. About three years later, the damn thing was finally done, and… the response from the literary establishment was, shall we say, underwhelmed. Benjamin has worked at a few different Borders bookstores, eventually becoming renowned for his ability to whip lagging stores into shape. At the same time, he was building his presence in the Unity church he attended, and soon his rousing, occasionally slam-poetry-inspired sermons were in high demand. Needless to say, he’s an interesting dude.

I was able to get out of Benjamin and Jenny’s hair for a little while when I met up with my friends Paul and Kari for dinner in Georgetown, at Pizzeria Paradiso, which I am happy to report is largely typo-free, but for a small error in the drafts menu that my camera was unable to pick up. As I mentioned, I lived in the D.C. area for a few years, but rarely did my wanderings take me out to the privileged avenues of Georgetown. This particular place was a familiar haunt for Paul and Kari, though, who’d venture out from Alexandria periodically to take advantage of the nice pizzas and fine beers. The former I enjoyed because they could take my old nemesis, the tomato, out of any variety, and the latter for the pleasant circumstances of being able to drink with good friends. But, perhaps, I enjoyed the beer too much. When we hit our second stop for a (failed) attempt to score a pool table, I realized my eyes were fogging up to an inconvenient degree, especially as typo-hunting was concerned. Nevertheless, I did spot some questionable interpretations of the word raspberry and snapped a photo, which, I’m pleased to show you, actually sort of came out (click to enlarge):

I would have made an attempt to correct it, but I seemed to be having trouble with my motor functions at the time. Now that I look at the picture, there’s another typo on the menu besides the two butcherings of raspberry… see if you can spot it!

We spent some happy moments watching drunk people try on construction cones as hats, and then Paul and Kari brought me back to Silver Spring, where I realized, due to the time change, I was banging on the door not at two a.m., which would have been bad enough, but three. Fortunately, Benjamin decided not to injure me (this time), and I crawled into my sleeping bag in the darkness and dreamt of adventures to come.

Totals
Typos Found: 12
Typos Corrected: 7

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Kids and Pudding

March 9th, 2008

Virginia Beach, VA

The time Benjamin and I spent in Maryland yesterday and earlier today carried echoes of our time as roommates after graduation, trying to become heroes of the page, first in a cramped eighteenth-floor apartment in Silver Spring, then in slightly more decent quarters in Rockville. Those were the real figuring-out years, and I felt the ghost of them, first as we braved treacherous traffic crossings at Silver Spring, then today when we (with Jenny) wound up at one of the many shopping plazas in Rockville along the Pike, chancing to eat at a diner that Benjamin and I had enjoyed back in our days as Pikers. The Silver Diner, most venerated of greasy spoons, and a venue that proved its worth in typo content while we stood in line waiting for our table. Jenny watched, bemused, as Benjamin and I almost simultaneously shouted out our discoveries and headed in opposite directions, he to a poster on the wall, and I to the daily specials chalkboard.

Benjamin had, it turned out, discovered two typos in the same poster (click to enlarge).

“I’ll only fix the Rocket one now, though,” he said. “I need to do some research to confirm whether there is only one Coloring Contest, or several.” And so Benjamin, white-out grasped firmly in hand, made the following correction:

Meanwhile, I had glimpsed the first occasion on which the Typo Correction Kit’s chalk would be useful. Witness Sunday’s dessert special at the Silver Diner:

Clearly, for the sake of the diner’s widespread reputation (who else could have won the privilege of hosting the Hadassah Women’s Zionist Organization’s annual fundraiser, “Hadassah Runs the Silver Diner”?), I needed to take action. I gestured at the young man trying to keep the queue of patrons in order, and said, “Can I fix the spelling of ‘puding’ on your board? I’ve got chalk with me.”

Ahead of us in line, the teenage girls tittered.

After registering only the barest surprise that I was actually carrying my own chalk, he blinked at the sign and said, “Oh, yeah. It’d be good to fix that.”

I performed my service with some haste, as we were about to get our table. I think my chalk was a little thinner than the one that had been used to render the erroneous spelling in the first place, but it does jes’ fine in a pinch, it does:

In the space of a few short moments, Benjamin and I had dispatched two typos with ruthless efficiency. This augurs well for the days to come, I thought, and we went with Jenny to stopper our arteries with the delicious glop of the most unhealthy brunch foods mankind has ever devised, served by a kind and capable man with the improbable name of Victor Hugo.

Benjamin probed a staffer whose name tag read Edison (Tom to his friends, I imagine) for greater detail on the promised Coloring Contests– was there only one, or would there be multiple, perhaps involving a series of elimination rounds to determine the ultimate colorer? After deciding that Benjamin was probably not a pederast, the guy gave him a sheet with more details on not just Coloring Contests, but all sorts of Nights for Kids. Kids Nights… no, Kid’s Nights… but which kid? What?

We wept for a few moments at the vile new array of errors and inconsistencies. Then we went back to eating our food. On the way out, Benjamin, armed now with the information that there would indeed only be one Coloring Contest, made his final adjustment to the sign, only afterward realizing that all the activities had long since expired and they’d probably be taking the sign down any day now.

We had in fact come to Rockville with a specific goal in mind, one that Benjamin had suggested once he saw my fieldwork at the Filene’s Basement in Boston. “We need to determine,” he’d said with a fierce glint in his eye, “whether those mistakes are happening at the store, or whether they’re coming down from corporate. We need to visit another Filene’s Basement.”

This was an eminently agreeable suggestion. It wasn’t too late, I realized, to make up for my cowardice back in Boston. So it was that we entered Filene’s Basement, Mid-Pike Plaza Rockville, on a mission of reconnaissance. I present to you the damning evidence we gathered… see if it looks familiar.



Yes, these are the same exact errors I glimpsed in Boston. Typos are being handed down from headquarters as gospel, propagating the errors many times over throughout all the branches of this celebrated institution. There is only one thing that can be done about such a topdown, overarching problem, and we will do it.

In the afternoon Benjamin bid goodbye to Jenny, and then he and I were off, driving down through Virginia to the last place for a while where I can expect the kind of cosseting I’ve been receiving so far on this trip, before we move on to a stretch of camping. We arrived at Benjamin’s parents’ house in Virginia Beach just in time for some chili and the opportunity to at least attempt to explain to them the bizarre motivation for our journey, and the surprising developments that have thus far arisen from it. Tomorrow, before departing this town for the coast of the Carolinas, we’ll see if we can spot a typo or two to give Virginia a moment in the sun.

Totals
Typos Found: 16
Typos Corrected: 9

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