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Typo Hunt Across America » Blog Archive » The Patron Saint of Errors

The Patron Saint of Errors

Albuquerque, NM

Today I got out of bed, walked out onto the porch outside our room at the hostel, and encountered some donkeys. We’d had notice from the lady running the place that these beasts would periodically appear on the property; still, I had to shake the last vestiges of sleep from my skull before being able to process that they really were milling about right in front of me. This was, I began to understand, one of the benefits of staying at a strange hostel as opposed to your basic cheap hotel. Sure, there was no wi-fi, and the shower resembled a chamber from an abattoir, but there were donkeys. We petted them and watched a male make an unsuccessful attempt to mount a female, his tumescent penis leaking in anticipation, and it felt like home.

The League’s rigidly implemented schedule did allow for us to spend two nights in Cedar Crest. Thus Benjamin and I were able to make an excursion to Santa Fe this morning, urging Callie on northeast via the Turquoise Trail. We ended up in the town plaza, drifting among shops and enjoying the excellent sunshine. It also proved a fruitful place for tracking down and quashing those dread objects that are the bane of all that is pure and life-giving. We wandered down Burro Alley and came upon a quaint French cafe, the sight of it temporarily removing me from the Southwest and shooting me back through the plumbing of memory, depositing me amidst a nostalgic spurt onto the Rue de la Petite Pierre. I was rudely brought back to the present, however, by the following sign in the window:

Benjamin pointed out that some forerunner of TEAL had already managed to correct other instances of the sign in the windows. Hence the crude but effective rendering:

Only the one uncorrected sign remained. I thought, might as well just leave it, and said so to Benjamin. He was incensed by my reaction.

“The other ones have been corrected, sure, but this one is still wrong,” he said. “You want me to do it? I can go in and do it.”

“All right,” I said, and handed over the white-out and a marker. He barged inside, past some curious diners at their white-linen meals, and made the following correction, in a more elegant fashion than the other signs had been treated to:

That did look good. I gazed at the correction and had the brief thought: Why had I not wanted to bother with this one? It had been wrong, had it not? And now it was right. Order had been restored to the world… thanks to Benjamin’s persistence, not mine. I recalled also the incident last night at Kelly’s restaurant in southeast Albuquerque. I had noticed the typo in the sign but deemed it possibly not worthy of my time. Then, too, it had been Benjamin to press the issue and present the TEAL card to the supervisor.

Am I losing my touch? Am I becoming too good for some typos?

We stopped next in a bookstore along West San Francisco Street, because books draw us with their silent siren’s call. Here too, Benjamin proved to be the more useful member of this pair of vigilantes. He noted a certain omission on a sign on the front door of the shop:

There is only one Barron, it seems, not multiple Barrons. And it possesses something. I felt Benjamin’s wrath pour into me as well, and I asked the clerks at the counter if they had any copies of the latest Barron’s. It turned out that Barron’s was not available here. They directed us to a place down the street. As we did not actually desire this publication, I added, “By the way, Barron’s has an apostrophe, does it not?”

The clerks looked at each other, and one said, half-laughing, “Look, buddy, I couldn’t tell ya that. I already told you where to find them.”

“It’s just that your sign on the front door is lacking an apostrophe,” I said. “Could I correct it?”

“Don’t worry about it, nobody cares,” said the younger clerk, but the older one said, “Yeah, whatever, if you want.” Clearly he just wanted us out of his hair.

We did, however, desire that they know why we wanted to right this wrong, so we handed them a TEAL card. They put it on the counter and stared at it while I went out to fix the error.

Our campaign of terror on this street had not yet come to a close. Just a couple of doors down, we came upon a shop selling all manner of exotic rocks and minerals, as well as various things sculpted out of those same materials. As I had put in a few years working on the magazine Rocks & Minerals down Washington way, this place was too enticing to pass up. Not that I actually knew anything about these treasures from the bowels of Gaia, mind you… my main utility at the magazine had been the fact that I could spell their names. It was a treat to see some of these doorstops for real. One, however, had a tag that contained a misspelling of the classic Brazilian repository of rare minerals, Minas Gerais:

An outrage, right, cherished readers? Okay, so maybe not an earth-shattering misstep, or rock-shattering, as the case may be, but still something that we figured the proprietors of the shop would like to hear about. I approached a friendly saleswoman, who did indeed appreciate having the typo brought to her attention, and she permitted me to take up my tools and bring about rightness.

I found myself somewhat puzzled by the receipt that the machine had printed out for Benjamin. “This is West San Francisco Street, right?” I said.

“Yes,” she said, “that’s correct.”

“This receipt right here says West San Francesco Street.”

“Ah,” she said, peering at the receipt and frowning. Behind her, her supervisor looked up sharply. Perhaps she was thinking back upon all the receipts throughout the years that had been printed up with this unfortunate error and dispersed among the populace like puffballs on the wind. We can only hope that this means the receipt machine will be adjusted. Without being certain, however, we cannot place this typo into the corrected column.

Then I bought a cowboy hat.

We knew from our guidebook that a visit to Santa Fe would not be complete without stopping by the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi. This majestic church was important for some reason or another, and anyhow it was just goshdarn purty. Benjamin and I stepped inside the hushed vault of worship and noted a glorious mural, which turned out to be quite new, at the front of the nave.

This was a gallery of people who were either saints or deserved to be saints, as determined by local politicians and/or the Catholic Church. I noted there was a miniature version of this display that served as a kind of key explaining who each person was. But lo! I swear I heard cherubim and seraphim together cry out in distress, verily, as I spotted a typo describing the literally central figure of the display, the man for whom the cathedral itself was named. This will be somewhat dark, I’m afraid, as no flash was permitted.

ASSISSI! Why, every devout schoolchild knows that there are only three S’s in that most holy of stamping grounds, Assisi. Shortly after I noticed the error, a tour guide for the church accosted us. He was a knowledgeable but garrulous old man; we did enjoy the first dozen or so of his anecdotes, but then we were ready to go. I did happen to notice, in the middle of one of his tales, that something seemed very wrong on his nametag. And look! I actually captured the mobile typo this time.

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” I said, “but this is St. Francis Cathedral, right?”

He confirmed that it was. Then I pointed out the fact that his nametag said Frances.

Jose seemed to take this in stride. “Well, you know, the Spanish have their own way of spelling things.”

No. No way, Jose. This is a lie, and you know it. I decided not to argue with him further on this point (a concession that Benjamin later cited as additional evidence that I’m getting soft). However, I did want to make him aware of the typo that I mentioned earlier, the misspelling of Assisi. We went over to the mural key and I showed him the mistake.

He paused, and then said, “I believe that’s the Spanish way of spelling it.”

This, it seemed, was our guide’s answer to every problem. Your kid failed his arithmetic test? Oh, he was just trying to to solve the equations the Spanish way. Frankly, I was insulted on behalf of the entire Spanish-speaking world. Here, my good friends, is the name on the sign outside the cathedral. Note the spelling of both Francis and Assisi. There is no “en espanol” alternate version below.

We headed back to the hostel and I opened the refrigerator to retrieve a nice cold bottle of water. When I closed the door, I noticed that our hosts had made a minor error of abbreviation according to commonly held standards.

I mentioned it in passing to Benjamin. He stared at me. “You are going to correct it, aren’t you?”

“I suppose.” It was a mistake, so why did I feel so blase about fixing it? What had happened to the inner fire? I got out my red marker and put the missing letter in, and tried to feel excited.

“Yes!” Benjamin crowed. “The 90th typo! We’ll definitely hit a hundred before LA.”

I’ve had some time to think about the ebb of enthusiasm that I felt in this and previously cited instances as of late, and I think the problem is that I got spoiled. We’ve toppled some mighty titans of error in our journey so far: righteously vandalizing buildings and breaking other city, state, and federal laws, climbing on top of ladders and cars, and so forth. Now it’s almost like I expect each typo to be grand in some way, either in its own vileness or in the manner we correct it. What I’ve lost sight of is the chilly reality that many typos are small and mean. No-one noticed them when they were there, and no-one will appreciate the fact that they are gone. That doesn’t change the fact that someone has gotta fix them, though, and that someone is me. Er, us. Er, all of us, including you, cherished reader. The correction must be its own reward.

So look out, typos both large and inconsequential. Wherever you are, assuming you are on our pre-established route, we will find you.

Typos Found: 90
Typos Corrected: 55

Back to TEAL home

18 Responses to “The Patron Saint of Errors”

  1. Josh Roberts Says:

    Don’t get soft yet. We will have quite a bit of nation to scour and scrub free of typo debris.

    But I suppose every hero needs his moment of doubt before he can ascend to a higher plane. A plane free of typos.

  2. Kimberly Says:

    I’m doing my part to help. Had dinner this evening at a great little hole-in-the-wall place that has their menu written in chalk. I was unable to reach high enough to fix Salad’s but I was able to fix, by way of finger-erasing, the errors in Parmersan, Dessert’s, and Tomatoe. I did draw the owner’s attention to Salad’s, and she seemed embarrassed but kind of laughed it off. I don’t know if she’ll get around to fixing it anytime soon.

  3. Rebecca Says:

    That’s a durn fine cowboy hat. “Durn” is how they spell it in Spanish.

  4. madre Says:

    I drove past a baptist church in my town and the sign read ” Jesus is Risen”, I didn’t have a camera or the ability to change it….oh well.

  5. Mom Says:

    “Holy” cow! Errors abound! Love your four-legged friends and the cowboy hat.

  6. erikka Says:

    I had a really weird dream and you were in it and basically you were the weird part. :)

    happy trails.

  7. Diane Says:

    Okay - I made my first typo correction request today. I had gone to a local grocery store and did a double take to check a sign outside the store in front of flowers for sale. The flowers were in bowls and the sign, which I think was supposed to say “Colored Bowls $9.99″ actually said “Colored Bowels $9.99″. While inside the store I spoke to the manager at the customer desk (who knows me) and asked her who should be told about an error on a sign in front of the store. She asked what it was. I told her and she visibly flinched, then laughed, then said she’d tell “Christie, who’s in charge of the flowers”. (I meant to drive by tonight to see if had been changed, but forgot.)

  8. Jeff Says:

    Nice work, Kimberly and Diane!

    Rebecca– you lie!

    Erikka, you have to stop dreaming about me without my permission.

  9. Benjamin (of the Backward Hat) Says:

    Hurray, Mom! Typo correction on the homefront!

  10. Chris Collins Says:

    I’m just glad that at 90 typos found you are working on at a better than 50 percent correction rate. :)

  11. Melanie Says:

    I saw one of those tow signs today, fortunately it said “Owner’s.” It did make me think of you and your mission, and I was glad for a moment that there is at least one tow company out there whose signs are spelled correctly.

  12. Rose Eliff Says:

    Kudos on the “Minas Gerais” catch! And interesting, isn’t it, that the saleswoman there cared about making this rather obscure correction while the others didn’t think anyone cared about or would notice their more noticeable typos. What about customer perception? When I see typos, I think “If they can’t take the time to spell something correctly, what does that say about the quality of their products or services?” You’re doing the Lord’s work. En espanol y en ingles. Gracias, amigos!

  13. Mary Osgood Says:

    As an English teacher at a voc/tech high school, I was constantly reminding my graphic arts students that they’ll lose business if they’re guilty of such typos. I’ve since retired, so it’s good to know the battle continues in such capable hands. Thank you.

  14. Aron Says:

    My preferred correction for the first sign would have been:


  15. Liz Says:

    Thank you for hve the courage correcting the typos. When are you coming to Washington State?

  16. Kat Says:

    Jeff: I have wondered why you do not use your White-Out in more situations to produce more graceful corrections. I believe if you do employ it, you will feel a renewed sense of righteousness in your mission. Think of the pride you got from CEMETAERY. Surely, you can feel similar pride in making corrections that look good on a less grandiose scale.

  17. John Says:

    The Spanish for “St. Francis of Assisi” is “San Francisco de Asís.”

    The full Spanish name for Santa Fe is “La Villa Real de la Santa Fé de San Francisco de Asís,” or “The Royal City of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi.”

  18. Says:


    hey cool site….

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