Sunday, December 14, 2008

Typing errors I have perpetrated upon the innocent

When I was in high school, my mother told me to take a typing class. I thought she was full of it, because my grandma had bought me a little typewriter when I was about ten and I'd invented my own two-forefingers-and-one-thumb method of typing that had stood me pretty well so far. Unfortunately, most of the typing I was doing at ten consisted of using sheet after sheet of paper to write "Mrs. Donny Osmond. Mr. & Mrs. Donny Osmond. Donny and Shelley Osmond" or, alternatively, "Mrs. Leif Garrett. Mr. & Mrs. Leif Garrett. Leif and Shelley Garrett."

She was right, of course, and when I got to college and had to type paper after paper after paper, as all English majors do, I thought my poor fingers would wither up and fall off. One night during finals, when I was typing up a huge term paper that I had to turn in at 8:00 the next morning, Pat (who was about fourteen at the time and could type none too well himself) took pity on me and sat down before the electric typewriter and hunted and pecked while I tried to coax some blood back into my tortured digits.

So I really don't type all that well. Oh, I can type fast. But my main problem is accuracy, particularly if the room is dark and I can't see my fingers.

I have two embarrassing stories about typing errors, one that happened just two weeks ago, which triggered the memory of the truly humiliating one that happened two years ago.

Two weeks ago, I was typing up an email to send out the the homeschool group about an upcoming performance of The Nutcracker that about fifteen of us had signed up to go see at Clowes Hall on the Butler University campus last Sunday afternoon at two o'clock. When I send out group notices, I always strive for a cheery, friendly manner because when you make some of the dumb typing errors I make, you'd best be known as a friendly sort of person so that some mom won't come up and strangle you with the strap on her handbag when you type that thus-and-so is to take place at four o'clock when it was really supposed to take place at three, if you see what I mean.

I finished up the email and CHECKED BACK THROUGH IT, which is what I've learned to do ever since Embarrassing Email Typo Error Number #1, which has scarred me for life. Yes, I had the date and time correct. Yes, I had the correct venue. Yes, I had even remembered to add a list of the families who signed up. But then I looked at the title I'd given to the performance and all the blood drained from my face.

Instead of typing The Nutcracker, I'd typed The Butcracker.

Did you know that the 'b' key and the 'n' key are very closely aligned on that bottom row, as in right next to each other? I do, intellectually at least. But my fingers have a hard time processing the message. And sure enough, when I'd been typing "Our long-awaited performance of The Nutcracker is coming up next Sunday, December 7" I'd instead typed something that looked like I was reminding everyone about the Holiday Festival O' Porn I'd signed us all up for.

If I'd sent it out, I wouldn't have worried that anyone would have been offended or anything, because my Catholic homeschooling homies aren't like that. No, it would be more an issue of a few of them never, ever, ever letting me forget what I'd typed so that our kids could have long sense flown the nest and possibly had children of their own and I'd still be hearing Butcracker jokes.

I didn't get so lucky with the first incident.

From the first incident, all I got was a tight, unamused silence that made me wake up in the night, cringing in shame against my pillows as I silently wailed, "Ohhhhhhhhhhh, geeeeeeezzzzz, I AM SUCH AN IDIOT."

Here's what happened:

I was trying to get a group together to go for a day of educational fun at the Indiana State Museum (the same place that Meelyn, Aisling and I went to last month with my friend Virginia and her kids) and I was corresponding back and forth with the museum's director of educational programming, whose name was Tina. I had originally addressed her, politely and formally, as Ms. So-and-so, but when she wrote back, she addressed me in a friendly, breezy way as 'Shelley,' so I felt comfortable in likewise referring to her as Tina in an email I sent back confirming the number of people who would be going on the field trip.

Only I didn't call her Tina.

I typed Tuna instead.

I caught my error just after I'd clicked the Send button and I gave a little scream of dismay. "Nooooooo!!!!!" I cried, but it was too late. Because, Send buttons? There is nothing more final than one of those, my friends. If reports from people who have had ghostly encounters are true, even DEATH isn't as frikkin' final as a sent email.

Woe to all those for whom the 'i' and 'e' keys are too nearly positioned.

I sat at my desk, wringing my hands, wondering what to do. Should I just pretend that I didn't notice? Should I send a follow up email in which I could apologetically explain that I caught my error with her name just as I hit the Send button? Should I wait until she replied back and then add a wry, self-deprecating explanation for my typing skills?

Because, names, you know...People can be funny about their names. It always irritates the woo out of me when people spell my name 'Shelly' instead of 'Shelley.' Yet leaving out that extra 'e' is nothing compared to calling someone a large, slimy fish.

I chose to go the self-deprecatory route, feeling that since she had established that breezy tone from the very beginning, perhaps I could get away with saying, Oh, look what a goose I am, how could I have made such a ridiculous error when typing your name. Which is what I did. And I truly expected to get back an email from her that said something like, Oh, I laughed so hard when I saw that. Don't worry about it. It happens all the time.

But I didn't get it. Instead, she replied in a short, cold, formal note that addressed me as "Mrs. McKinney."

"Please don't mention it. Your field trip date and time are confirmed for...."


I spent the rest of the four weeks until field trip day praying to all the saints and angels that I would not have to come face to face with this woman whom I had obviously offended. They came through in their intercessory prayers and there was ice and snow the night before the trip and I enthusiastically canceled it, saying that I hoped we'd be able to re-schedule at another time (like, preferably when Tina got a job offer from a state museum out east or west or anywhere but Indianapolis, Indiana) but I never did. Virginia cottoned on to an excellent program for elementary, middle and high schoolers and those field trips became her domain and I was never so thankful for anything in my life.

But NOT so thankful that, on the day we went with Virginia and her kids, I ate a tuna salad sandwich in the museum's café or anything. No, not that much....

No comments: