Where is Emily Post When I Need Her?

This blog is intended to elicit comments and opinion – please chime in!
A few years ago, I ran a one mile race with Wayne Kevin.  I wasn’t really training at all at the time, so it was a fairly dismal effort on my part.  Poorly trained or not, some primal brain cells deep in my brain kicked in at the end and I blew past one or two competitors within a few feet of the finish line.  Maybe it was my imagination, but one of the finish line volunteers, who has extensive running experience and my deep respect, seemed disapproving that I would pass the other runner(s) so close to the end.
One year, the Tallahassee Democrat published a picture of Wayne Kevin and his friend, Alex, appearing to be neck-and-neck at the finish of the Red Hills Kids Triathlon.  Wayne had been taking his sweet time on the mile run until Alex started gaining ground on him.  Then it was an all out sprint to the finish; the picture shows each boy struggling with all his might to reach the tape first.  Arms pumping, legs churning, as much machismo as a couple of boys could muster!  Of course, Wayne had started in an earlier wave than Alex, so regardless of all that finish line bravado, Wayne’s finish time was still minutes slower than Alex’s.  But for that moment when Wayne thought he had a race to win, he mustered up reserves that had been completely dormant until a competitor showed up!  In my mind, that had always been a “too little too late” situation; if Wayne had been running his own race, and focusing his own mind, he would not have wound up in such a nail biter of a finish (but it did make a great newspaper photo!). 
More recently, the topic of finish line etiquette came up in a conversation between a friend and me.  I commented that in a recent race, I had sprinted to the finish with another runner, that I felt justified because we had been competing somewhat evenly throughout the race, but still worried that I had broken some finish line etiquette “rule.”  My friend then said, “Well, maybe that explains what another runner said to me today when I passed her right before the finish.”  The other runner’s expression hadn’t exactly been “good job”!
When I got home that day, I sent an email to one of my running guru friends, asking if there is a “finish line etiquette” or some “no pass zone” once you are close to the line.  His response:

It’s more a matter of resentment and hurt feelings to be passed near the finish. I see it at every race. Actually there is some strategy involved. You don’t want to make your bid too early, if you do, the victim has a chance to recover and perhaps hold you off. That said, it’s kind of tacky to roar by within a few feet of the chute.

I thanked the guru, shared the information with my friend, and thought I had put the issue to bed. 

Until (drum roll please), I was the passee at last night’s St. George Island Summer Sizzler Race.  Compared to last year, I really felt better about my endurance in this race, and at the splits, I thought I was easily going to come in under 40:00 (and yes, the “big” goal is to come in under 30:00, but the oppressive heat put many of us into survival mode!).  When I was at 39:39 at the 3 mile mark, 40:00 was out of reach (darn it!).  I was trying to put my all into getting across the finish line when footsteps came pounding up behind me and a runner I don’t recall seeing all race came sprinting up beside me.  Crap!  By the time I mentally registered that runner’s presence, I did not apply enough “oomph” to cross the line first and heard one of the finish line volunteers point out the color of her shirt for the volunteers up the line to know who had come in ahead of who.  The humorous thing was that this runner kept up at full speed through the line, making the strippers’ job a challenge.  I was feeling all the things the guru discussed above (resentment, hurt feelings) in conjunction with solidarity with the finish line crew, whose job is fun but not easy. 

This runner deserves the place ahead of me because she fairly and squarely got to the line a nanosecond before me.  And although the results aren’t out, we probably finished in exactly the same time.  It still irked me, though, and led to me wanting to explore the “finish line etiquette question” in more depth.  Believe it or not, when you google the question there’s not a lot out there. 

The spouse of a twitter friend, who is a runner, had several observations:
1) It depends on the race and your level of competitiveness,
2) apply the golden rule,
3) gauge people you’re running near/with to see they’d welcome push for finish, and
4) many races are timed so the finish spot is not important

What do you think?

I’ll “run” into you next week readers, but I’m not sure if I’ll run “past” you, especially if we’re within five feet of the finish line!

When the going gets though, the though get going.

Some people sing with the voices of angels.  Some people run long distances quickly.  Some people coach athletic teams to win, season after season.  Me, I see typos.  As several of my previous Wordless Wednesday posts attest, many letters are being written on objects that do not move while perfectly good letter-writing paper goes unused.  Thank goodness Mrs. Bowen, my sixth grade teacher, gave us students the hint that “stationary” has an “a” in its last three letters to remind us of an “anchor,” something that remains still.  “Stationery,” on the other hand, is used for writing letters. 

My nickname at Healthy Kids has been “The Big Green Pen” for many years now.  Because I use a green felt-tip pen when I edit letters, and because I am, to put it mildly, generous with the green ink, the nickname is permanent and has become my identity on Twitter (@biggreenpen) and among my proofreading/copyediting clients. 

There are a few of us at the office who enjoy language, and appreciate language used with precision and care.  Therefore, when I see something egregious (like the recent “Flordia”), I send out a quick email with a “Big Green Pen Challenge.”  When my coworker, Niki Pocock, participated in the most recent “Big Green Pen Challenge,” she included in her response a link to a blog by Bob Gabordi, Executive Editor of the Tallahassee Democrat, in which  Bob discusses why answering his phone is always an adventure.  As part of his blog, when he refers to a caller who questioned whether the Democrat still utilizes proofreaders, he wrote:

Losing those people huddled in the back proofreading pages was part of the price we paid for technology. These days, newspaper pages go straight from the newsroom’s computers to metal plates that go on the press. Fewer eyes are looking for typos and minor grammar flaws.

Between my initial reading (on Friday) of Bob’s blog and logging on to http://www.tallahassee.com/ this morning, two typos jumped off the page (first case) and screen (second case).  It was time to e-mail Bob.

In my e-mail, I expressed my hope that there can be some happy medium between those non-existent “back of the room” proofreaders and “a journalistic organization resigning itself to an attitude of “we’ll catch what we can, but errors happen.” 

I pointed out the on-line lead for the well-done “print exclusive” article about the fiscal difficulties faced by the LeMoyne Center for the Visual Arts.  The text stated:

The recession has been particularly though on the
LeMoyne Center for the Visual Arts, a Tallahassee
nonprofit that’s been around for 47 years.

I also pointed out that the header to a very informative article in yesterday’s Democrat, which described how to prepare for the sport of triathlon, was titled this way:

Break in new gear as part of pre-race preperation. 
Arguably, neither of these errors did any damage.  The recession is still hitting Lemoyne; athletes still need to break in their gear to get ready for triathlons. 
I once proofread a friend’s resume.  I’m pretty sure the friend’s career might have gone a whole different direction if the friend’s original representation of her “Master’s in Public Administration” had not had its “L” in “Public” replaced before distribution. 
For examples of typos that have done more than annoy, visit Eye for Ink’s Typo of the Month page.  You can even subscribe to receive a new “particularly embarrassing or expensive” typo every month (if you can stand it!). 
When my new smartphone started anticipating my words for me, so that, for example, I could start typing “let’s get lu….” and the phone would pop up with the options of “lunch” or “lucky,” I started tuning in to the types of technology that have become an expectation of my 10- and 13- year old children.  There is very little thinking involved; your message can be composed and sent in a flash. 
But getting “lunch” and getting “lucky” are different.  I imagine there are many people out there I might want to have lunch with, but only one I plan to get lucky with!
In the final paragraph of my email to Bob, I said, “However, if we parents do manage to get our kids to read the newspaper (one can always hope) or if a teacher requires students to read an article in the newspaper for a class-related assignment, I think it is important that the writers/publishers have made every effort to show that they care about the “small considerations” of spelling and grammar in addition to the “big considerations” of what they have to say.”
Bob responded within two hours of my original e-mail.  His response e-mail, in which he assured me that typos “drive me utterly insane” (yay! a kindred spirit), he also pointed out that the “online editing process is different … than the print process.”  He discussed the “nature of writing and editing so quickly for the 24-7 news cycle” and commented that, “such errors have always been a problem for newspapers.”  Bob said that, “Newspapers have long been called the first draft of history ……. Now, with the Web, perhaps print is the second draft.  But in either case, we have never faced more intense deadline pressure than now and I would not be surprised if our typo-error rate is not higher than in previous generations.” 
In closing, Bob wrote, “there is anything but a casual attitude or reaction to such errors in our newsroom.  If I gave that impression, it is a false one.” 
I really appreciate the e-mail exchange I shared with Bob, and the articulate, explanatory nature of his response.
Writing, proofreading, and editing have always been a big part of my life.  Sometimes it has been professionally compensated; other times it has been on behalf of a cause that I love.  When I left the Holy Comforter book club tonight, thinking about next month’s book, Half the Sky, it occurred to me that quibbling over “it’s/its, heel/heal, peek/peak, and other grammatical no-no’s,” while important to preserving the integrity of the written word, is a true luxury compared to the life and death struggles the women featured in the book face from the moment they are born. 
To tell the story of the women featured in “Half the Sky,” though, and other stories meant to inform, convince, and reassure, requires attention to language and detail.  It is that attention to detail and drive to be accurate that I seek to keep alive by protecting the way in which language is used. 
Maybe I’ll “get lucky” and this blog won’t have any errors.  Anyone want to “get lunch” and calmly discuss?


Someone Will Be With You Shortly – A Book Review

When Melissa Lierman sought reviewers for Someone Will Be With You Shortly, I couldn’t respond fast enough.  If you know me at all, you know I love reading, and it is always interesting to be handed something “fresh” and to be given a chance to pitch in with a review.

Each of the brief (4-5 page) vignettes in author (and mom) Lisa Kogan’s new book feels like going down a slide — it gathers acceleration as it progresses and you feel a little shiver of exhilaration before getting in line to experience the fun again.

I marked parts of the text that I could relate to.  Does this give you an idea of the kinship I felt with Kogan?

Just tonight, when I sat down to write this review (which is due in 22 minutes), I could relate to Lisa’s chapter about dinner parties, entitled “It’s My Party — and I’ll Make Witty, Albeit Possibly Inappropriate and/or Offensive Remarks — If I Want To.”  Lisa believes that she is dinner-party-hostessing impaired and apparently her friends agree with her.  They invent things like elective surgery conflicts and other excuses to avoid Lisa’s dinner parties.  It comes down to her perfectionism and how difficulty it is to relinquish control and allow the guests to relax.  Her significant other/father of her child Johannes’s solution is to pick up the phone, while she is clad in scruffy yoga pants, and invite the neighbors over in 15 minutes.  Although the apartment isn’t “company ready” and the refrigerator’s only contribution to anything remotely dinner party-ish is some marginally fresh condiments, order-in Thai food saves the day and Lisa, Johannes and the guests enjoy a lovely evening of camaraderie.  I have about that long to get my thoughts down on paper about Lisa’s book and I’m going to do my best to give you a “taste.”
Another story of Lisa’s that could have been plucked out of my life was Chapter 3, “Messing With My Head.”  Lisa tells the story of her “very, very, very bad haircut” in this chapter, when she connects her “crummy haircut” from a quick visit to a “no appointment necessary clip joint” to a “seventeen-month-long lousy streak.”  For me, it was sort of the opposite situation.  In November 2009 when Tenley wanted a haircut from favorite stylist at Green Peridot, a local salon, the price had gone up exponentially because a) at 13, she no longer qualified for the “children’s price,” and b) her stylist had moved up the rungs at the “teaching salon” and could now charge more (meaning around $55 total).  Deciding we couldn’t both get pricey haircuts, and deferring to the theory that self esteem issues are more critical to a 13 year old than a 44 year old, I went to the opposite end of the Aveda spectrum and got a “student” cut for $12 at the local Aveda “teaching salon.”  The cut itself actually wasn’t as horrible as Lisa’s “fatal haircut” apparently was, but the oddest things requiring a focus on my appearance happened that month, such as my first opportunity to have a role (other than “extra”) in an FSU Film.  Haircuts are rarely just about hair, are they?
Lisa does a succinct job of summing up what it is that all of us forty-something moms seek in between all of the fatal haircuts, bad dinner parties, and monkey maulings (see Chapter 14).  We seek (or at least Lisa and I do) those “perfect moments,” when “life is inexorably sweet —- and generally over before you can capture them on the teeny camera in your ridiculously tricked-out cell phone.” 
Do you need a laugh in an otherwise hectic, stressful day?  Do you need to know you’re not alone?  Need a man to hold your hair while you throw up?  (Well, you may be alone on that one as Lisa seems to have one of the last few alive and even he is in Switzerland eight months out of the year.)  But for the laugh part and the “all in this together part,” give Lisa’s book a try …… the humor will “be with you shortly.”

On Wednesday, April 29, from 9-11 p.m. Melissa Lierman and Julie Morgenstern will be hosting a Twitter party to introduce the book and Lisa!  Lisa will be answering questions about her life, her column with O magazine, and the book!  Click here to RSVP!