Long ago, when I had to walk five miles uphill both ways to school and rapid communications were made by Pony Express, in the era when “spell-check” was not part of even the most sophisticated computer geek’s vocabulary, and locating a latte was something done only in Italy, I learned the value of proofreading.
Now, however, it is an elementary matter to allow such habits to skid into disuse, particularly as my Computer (see, there it goes again, capitalizing itself, when I really meant to have it appear in lower case) will alert me by placing a narrow red line underneath any word it fails to recognize. This feature makes placing case citations in briefs a riveting visual experience. Cautionary tales of communications fired off in the heat of passion or the agony of ennui containing amusing or humiliating errors have proliferated on the Internet and as urban legend.
Nevertheless, I occasionally receive the following commentary having undertaken written work for someone else, and, notwithstanding what seemed at the time to be a thorough review: “There is a typo on page five.”
Recently, I had a birthday. I suppose I should not divulge this, as at a certain age, one wishes merely to forget them, or to discreetly adjust the year when the first one occurred, but this fact is important to the story.
During the week before I turned 55 54 53 52, I received an e-mail at the office. The subject line read “FYI.” The message itself informed me that my own birthday would occur the following Monday. I checked; I was the only recipient. I replied anyway, advising the sender that I actually did remember that it was my birthday, and that I thought I’d bring a cake. No extra points will be awarded for guessing that it was chocolate, but I digress.
In recent weeks, I have mentioned in this column that I work with another attorney named Chip Danker, and more pertinently that he is my friend. This fact is also relevant.
On the Monday on which my actual birthday occurred, I stepped out of my office briefly. When I returned, a birthday card had been lodged between the QWERTY and the ASDFG rows of my keyboard. On the outside were pictures of balloons, cake, and confetti and the customary salutation. Breathlessly, I opened it.
The pre-printed greeting read, “May all your wishes come true, and your day be filled with happiness.” Above that, my first name was handwritten. Thereafter, the greetings written by the senders appeared as follows:
“Chip, Don’t celebrate too hard. Happy Birthday!”
This was followed by: “Big Bro, Happy Birthday to my main man!”
And last: “Chipotle, have a happy birthday, you old coot!”
“Aha!” I thought. “There is a typo on page five!”
Chip’s birthday is in April.
I should emphasize that Chip and I look almost exactly alike, so the confusion is easily understood.
Fortunately, this piece of writing was not going to the Appellate Court. Nonetheless, it made me laugh and has formed a piece of personal history which has already tickled dozens of others in the retelling.
Shortly afterward, I got, in this order: an apology on bended knee, a lengthy explanation of what happened, and a new birthday card containing handwritten good wishes directed to the correct recipient.
I blame spell-check. •