The penciled words in the gas station restroom probably accurately reflected the attitude some may feel about the out-of-the-way, one-horse town we were passing through. "This is not the end of the world, but you can see it from hear." It was a good joke and my temptation was to make it an accurate joke by changing "hear" to "here" with the red correcting pencil that I always carry for emergencies like this.
English teachers can certainly, if unintentionally, make the world uncomfortable for some people. We sometimes seem so critical of language while at the same time making mistakes of our own. This hypocrisy is often interpreted as criticism of people. I must admit that I sometimes feel an urge to correct graffiti but don't want to risk the misdemeanor arrest.I pointed out to my son that a girl's name and message was spray painted on the rocks at the Thistle junction in Spanish Fork Canyon, and that the author that chose to profess his love publicly in spray paint offended the world with a grammatical error. My son suggested that the spray painting was more offensive than the grammar. I hadn't thought of that, although it had occurred to me that most spelling is forgivable only because I let the computer take care of mine and because what is really important is the idea.
Since it is the idea that is important, I have always been curious at preboarding announcements made in airports. "This is a preboarding announcement for all sick, lame and lazy to preboard the aircraft now. General boarding will begin in a few minutes after all the space in the overhead compartments is filled with the carryon luggage of the flight crew and the families traveling with small children." (This may not be an exact quote.) The question this brings is whether or not they are really going to let these people needing special assistance on the plane or not. Does preboarding mean getting on the plane or not getting on the plane? Maybe preboarding just refers to the announcement. The voice in the air did say that this was a "preboarding announcement." Sometime I am going to be the last one on the plane and hang my head out the door and listen to see if there are any postboarding announcements. I somehow think that all the announcements are preboarding announcements.
I suppose this problem with language is really forgivable now that the airlines have quit offending me with the very sensitive observation that my "seat bottom can be used as a flotation device."
The people who put signs on paper plates all over the national forest to tell where reunions and parties offend sometimes as much as the spray painters. These homemade artifacts that seem to have accumulated for generations may someday tell archaeologists the history of the forest. These signs, however, are only slightly less confusing than the official signs that tell us where to park, camp, smoke, build fires, pay fees and fish. There are even signs that name the lakes and mountains. I'll never tell who painted out the P and L on the Pass Lake sign on the Mirror Lake highway in 1958.
These official signs sometimes add to the confusion. The one near Soapstone in the Uinta Mountains on the Mirror Lake Highway informs me thus: "Campers only in campground." To really benefit from this educational column, please use this important information to answer the following multiple guess question:
-A. You must be a camper to go in the campground.
-B. If you brought a tent, you are out of luck at this place because only campers are allowed. (This also excludes trailers).
-C. The people sleeping outside the campground are not campers.
-D. The sign is just there to nail paper plates with real messages.
-E. Campers must not camp outside the campground.
-F. Campers must not leave the campground.
-G. All of the above.
-H. None of the above.
-I. A before B except after D or when adding I to make a plural. Please send all answer sheets to the U.S. Forest Service.
The Coca-Cola Co. can be as confusing as the Forest Service. The notice on the pop machine reads: "Use correct change when lit."
First is the technology question: How does the machine know when I am lit? Could it tell if I were only half lit? Next is the right of privacy question: Why does it need to know if I am lit? What is it going to do about it? Please send preanswers to the Coca-Cola Co. on a paper plate.
And by the way, the gas station was at the end of the earth, but the message on the paper towel dispenser may save us all. "In case of emergency, push here for towel." It boggles the mind thinking of possible emergencies that can occur in gas station restrooms at the end of the earth.