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Typo Hunt Across America » Blog Archive » A Walking Typo

A Walking Typo

El Paso, TX

I am sad to report that this will be our last entry about Texas. Ever. Today Benjamin and I drove on for another heroic stretch of distance, getting almost all the way to the end of the state and into a city sandwiched between two mythical lands, Old Mexico and New Mexico. Tomorrow we will be venturing due north for probably the first time on this epic and thoroughly bizarre tour of the country I am just beginning to truly understand. But let’s not put the wagon before the burro, shall we?

We rose early this morning and found that our souls had not been ripped from our bodies overnight by vengeful spectres. Fort Stockton had not conquered us. Just to be on the safe side, though, we left the hotel as quickly as possible, skipping the continental breakfast if it did in fact exist. As I’d just broken three thousand miles on this trip, I got Callie’s oil changed at a gas station down the street. My father had scoffed about the 3K changing rule, believing it a profit-aimed construction by Jiffy Lube and the like, and he’s probably right, but I didn’t want to take any chances. There were and are many miles ahead through lonely places.

Then we got back on our old friend, I-10W, which we had largely followed ever since Mobile, and set off for El Paso. The hills grew into mountains as we pushed farther west, and we snapped a bunch of pictures at eighty miles an hour. It was right around Sierra Blanca that we pulled off for some gas, a piss, and a bit of lunch, courtesy of the local Love’s station. They had partnered with Subway, so we took advantage of a five-dollar footlong deal. We couldn’t take another day of peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. As we stood in line, Benjamin gestured at a guy loitering in a doorway behind the counter. “Check it out,” he murmured.

I looked over, and at first I couldn’t see anything. Then I said, “Ah! ‘Restaurant’ is spelled wrong on his name tag!”

“Oh, uh,” said Benjamin, “I was just pointing out his laziness. But yeah, you’re right. Can you get it?”

“I’ll try,” I said, and I did try. He came closer, now trying to look busy without actually doing anything. But the guy was moving too fast during his rounds of doing nothing, and so the result was far too blurry:


We couldn’t figure out a good way to harass him at that moment, so we sat down at a booth to eat our sandwiches. By and by, the guy passed by us to go outside and around the building for a smoke. We considered our options.

“The problem is that this typo is on the move,” said Benjamin.

“Yes, we’ve never had a mobile typo before,” I said. Then I suggested, “We could go out back and corner him.”

During these deliberations, however, the guy returned, passing by the front windows of the place. He looked a little unnerved as we stared at him through the glass. Then he got downright anxious when he came back inside and I called out, “Billy!”

“Yes?” he said cautiously.

“I couldn’t help but notice that restaurant was spelled wrong on your name tag,” I said.

He looked down at it, uncomprehending. “…I’m the manager.”

Billy started to walk away, but I kept at it: “So do you think you could get that fixed?”

He stopped, but offered no discernible reply, so I pushed on. “See, we’re traveling around the country correcting typos. It could be a real success story if you fixed that.” I opened my wallet and gave him one of the business cards that Paula had made.

Billy looked at the logo for TEAL. Then he flipped the card over and saw the Jeff and Benjamin cartoon heads, and TEAL’s web address. He looked from the cartoon heads to our real heads. “Uh…”

“So do you think you could fix it?” I asked.

If he gave an actual reply before backing away from us, the business card clenched in one hand, I did not hear it. Benjamin and I were forced to conclude that this typo would remain untouched and unrighted, perhaps until Billy moved on to bigger things and passed the name tag to a new generation.

We passed into Mountain Time and then found ourselves rolling through the county of El Paso at the tortoise-like speed limit of 70. The highway cut through a great swath of retail, every chain store imaginable, and I realized only in retrospect how nice it had been to be free from advertising during our drive amid the desert peaks. We had given Authority the address of the city visitor center. At the last moment, I became aware that Authority was trying to send us directly into the garage of the place. “Five-dollar parking!” I exclaimed. “Screw that!” And I swerved away from the entrance.

Now we did have to figure out where we would park. We went a couple of blocks, and I had the brilliant idea that we should park in the lot charging a $3 admission fee, the notice for which was handwritten on a cardboard sign. Perfectly legitimate operation, that! We parked there and got out of the car, wondering who exactly to pay the three dollars to. Then a middle-aged man approached us. “Hello!” he said. “You come with me.” He went through a doorway, and we swallowed our hesitation and followed him down to a basement with a man behind a service window. Our guide introduced himself to Benjamin as George while I paid the clerk, and then followed us back outside.

“You want to give me a couple dollars, so I can get something to eat?” he said. “Or just a dollar even?”

I started to refuse, but then reflected on the possible subtext that he might be asking me for a dollar to not break into my car. I figured this would be a reasonable investment to prevent an assault on Callie, so I gave him a buck. Suddenly that five-dollar fee for a city-run garage sounded like a great deal.

As we walked away from the lot, Benjamin glanced back and noted that George the panhandler was still watching us. We went around the corner and disappeared from his sight, then circled back around another building for a look at the lot. George had already moved on to other people to try to shake them down for hooch money, so we figured the car would be okay.

The downtown area seemed to be a locus for El Paso’s museums, so we figured we’d check out what was going on at the science museum, maybe take in some holograms and see if they compared with the amazing specimens on display at the MIT Museum back home in New England. Nope… closed Mondays. Benjamin thought he might be able to stand a little art, so we tried the art museum. Closed Mondays too! We didn’t bother with the history museum. Apparently this was not a good day of the week for culture. Things were more lively down on El Paso Street, which was lined with bilingual souvenir shops and markets. Well, perhaps bilingual is a bit generous a term– the signs were mostly in Spanish, useless for our purposes. We left it and decided to blunder around a little more in time-honored Jeff and Benjamin fashion.


We came back to our parking lot, where we found Callie happily unmolested. Across the street from the lot, I had one more discovery that I must note here, though it was beyond our power to correct. Well, really we just wanted to go and hide in a cheap hotel, preferably several exits away.

We found an outpost of our favorite chain and a friendly old guy named Ron checked us in. Upon examining my license, he said, “Massachusetts! I used to live in Western Mass, before I came here, about twenty-eight years ago, must be. Heh, how are you enjoying that free health care they got there now?”

“You mean the free health care I’m paying two hundred and fifty bucks a month for?” I said. “It’s fantastic.”

“Ha!” said Ron. “See, it just doesn’t work. California tried the same thing a while back, and they just stopped their program a couple years back. Were losing money all over the place.”

“Yeah,” I said, “we need reform of the system at the national level.”

He snorted. “No, we just need people to realize that we can’t just hand out free health care. Taxes would go through the roof!”

This was a political argument that I was sure I did not want to pursue with this man. It’d be a shame to end up disliking him after he’d been so friendly. So I steered the subject back to safer zones, such as the weather. Ron told us that he would never go back to New England, no sir, he enjoyed the temperature here mighty fine.

“And some of the Hispanic women ain’t bad at all,” he added. “You know, when I first moved here, I wasn’t as old as you see me now. That was twenty-eight years ago…”

Benjamin and I departed before we were subjected to anecdotes that we were absolutely sure we did not want to hear. And here we huddle now in the safety of our hotel room. Perhaps this would be a good night to order in.

A couple of notes regarding the community of TEAL, and TEAL in the community, if such an astonishing concept can exist. First, the latter: I was extremely moved to hear that at least a few teachers out there have decided to incorporate excerpts from our adventures into their lesson plans as a way to get kids jazzed about the practice of better spelling and grammar. This is awesome, and I encourage anyone else interested in doing such a thing to go forward with TEAL’s happy blessing. Maybe eventually we’ll able to work up some sort of official material for educators. Or at least vend some personal Typo Correction Kits. Teachers, we hear you!

Typos Found: 77
Typos Corrected: 45

Back to TEAL home

22 Responses to “A Walking Typo”

  1. gazza Says:

    Perhaps Billy meant “I’m the manager…, so I can spell ‘restaraunt’ however I like”? One step beyond the view of the woman you encountered earlier who thought that spelling is up to the whim of the individual.

  2. Paula Says:

    You mean to tell me the business card didn’t force a beam of light to shine down on him from the heavens? There was no sudden moment of enlightenment? I’m sitting here in disbelief… I really thought those would be enough to sway even the most stubborn individual.

    Ah well…

    Perhaps one day he will come to understand the true importance of what you were telling him.


  3. Bekah Says:

    If I may ask for a clarification for my rusty grammatical gears - why should the apostrophes in the parking signs come between the r and the s, instead of after the s (owners’)? The cars, plural, will be towed at the expense of the owners, plural, correct? Unless, of course, it’s only one owner of all those improperly parked cars. Then, too, there’s a beauty to having an improperly marked sign for the improperly parked cars…

  4. Jeff Says:

    Bekah– see midway through “No Typo is an Island” for the explanation as to why this is correct.

  5. erikka Says:

    un-TEAL related, but I finished Cryptonomicon. I TOTALLY see where your writing was inspired by. The book was JIE-normous, but I had to keep reading. A+

  6. Jeff Says:

    Hurrah, I’m glad you enjoyed it!!

  7. Jeanne Says:

    I just love your site! I always look for typo’s. Probably made some right here. It’s not so much punctuation, but misspellings. One that I find constantly is Chipotle on restaurant menu boards etc. I will ask for the chalk and spell it correctly. Keep up the good work! I’m from Minnesota. Will click on my state, hope you have been through!

  8. Jeff Says:

    Jeanne, haven’t been through yet, but Minneapolis is definitely on the agenda for the way back.

  9. Kathy Whalen Says:

    I found myself reading a sign at a gift shop at a conservatory. They had ’succulent’ spelled wrong–twice (’succulant’). I felt myself turning red and kind of warm, and I thought, “What would TEAL do?”

    But I didn’t have the temerity to approach the teenage shop girl, or the desire to embarrass the family members who were with me, and I let it pass.

    Now it’s hard to sleep at night.

  10. nancypearlwannabe Says:

    I feel dumb even mentioning it, but that Ashliey can’t possibly be right, can it? Do you think she misspelled her own name? Or did Juan Davila accidentally misspell his “love for ever”’s name? The questions! They burn!

  11. Tracey S. Rosenberg Says:

    Hey, maybe when you guys complete your epic mission, you can turn your attention to the TEALites (TEALers?) who become your apostles. That way the website - and the mission - can keep going even when this particular journey ends.

  12. Kath Says:

    Indeed WWTD? This is just terrific. If you are ever in RI and need a beer, it is on me. I’m contemplating creating the Zeugma Proliferation Front just to try to be your friends.

    A suggested stop in Denver, which maybe isn’t on your travel list:
    April 10-12
    American Copy Editors Society National Conference

    I know them and they would shower you with love.

  13. Catherine Says:

    I believe “employe” is an accepted variant of “employee.” I used to be an “employe” (as it was spelled) of on the major 50 American states. Everywhere in that state’s government documents it was spelled with a single “e” on the end which sent a few of us running to sources such as:

    Sure enough!

    Again, I love what you’re doing …

  14. Kat Says:

    Ignoring the missing T, I wonder if those missing commas are how The Fire Theft got its name …

  15. Scott Says:

    Hey! Thanks so much for this; it’s totally interesting, especially because I have always held spelling and grammar to be an important and enjoyable pastime. Unfortunately, El Paso has caused my abilities in this area to regress significantly. I also miss the high level diction that I have found in these posts. Thanks again, and keep up the good work!

    P.S.-The manager busy with his ’rounds of doing nothing’ is extremely familiar. So is the ‘Spanish way’ of spelling things, as mentioned in the New Mexico posts.

  16. Jessamy Says:

    You’re my hero. You have exactly nailed my pet peeve. My husband and I seem to constantly find spelling and punctuation errors in advertisements, menus and signs. We often marvel that a company would pay for a beautiful, expensive sign or banner and not even bother to proofread it! I am glad your efforts have gotten you some positive press. Keep up the good work!

  17. Christian Says:

    I actually had a conversation w/ a friend about “employe”. It seems that someone at General Motors decided they could save a boatload of money by eliminating the “extra” “e” in “employee”. They actually started sending things out spelled “employe”.

  18. Nancy Pinkston Says:

    When I heard about Jeff Deck, I thought I had died and gone to grammar heaven. At last here was someone, other than myself of course, who shared the same passion, even obsession for formal grammar! I am sure there are others besides Mr. Deck who have been maligned and mocked as I have concerning the accuracy of our language. But that is the price we pay for believing that Americans should not allow English to be “dumbed down” to just a few grunts and worthless interjections. Spelling and punctuation are important and I applaude Mr. Deck and his crusade. I hope Mr. Deck will consider those of us with a similar passion to be his kindred spirits.

  19. Jocelyn Says:

    So, what, split infinitives don’t count? “Benjamin had expressed his desire to at some point make a correction…”

    And Jeanne, ‘chipotle’ is the correct spelling. It’s pronounced ‘chip-OT-lay’.

  20. Erik Says:

    Too bad you missed one of the great ones in El Paso. Near one of the bridges to Juarez there is a very official green-and-white sign warning drivers of “PEDESTRAINS”. It’s been there for years.

  21. Erik Says:

    And if you were to drive on I-10 toward Van Horne, you’d see the Diesel Fried Chicken sign. One hopes it is a typo.

  22. Ms. B. Says:

    Thanks for cleaning up at least part of Texas on your way through. I’ve tried to do my best for 25 years both in and out of the classroom, but your way just seems like a whole lot more fun. You have a new faithful reader.

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