Prior to our event in Charlottesville, I decided to send out a little tweet. (Yes, I have recently become yet another twit.) Unfortunately, I’d botched something. The red squiggles indicated I’d misspelled the word Charlottesville. I stared at it for a moment. Before I could even start adding or deleting letters–the way you do when you get those squiggles and figure you must have just gotten this or that little thing wrong so you change it to see if the squiggles go away–I realized that I didn’t even know what to change. So I asked the human spell-checker, also known as Jeff Deck, the founder of TEAL, to spell the city we were currently in. He spelled it and it checked out. TweetDeck simply didn’t recognize it, hadn’t listed it in their lexicon of proper nouns. It bothered me that I’d actually stared at it wondering what I’d gotten wrong, that the fact that I couldn’t even guess what to change hadn’t made me shout back at the screen, “I defy you, villain! I know better!”
Onwards to the event, which was at New Dominion in the downtown area, and what a blast it was. The event space was up overlooking the rest of the store at the back, with all sorts of interesting artwork on the walls. Not having as many contacts here, we weren’t sure what to expect, but people began trickling in about fifteen minutes before the event began. We asked some of them how they had heard about the event, and every person or group seemed to have a different answer. Nice work getting the word out, Charlottesville.
Two minutes prior to start time, we’d filled the seats and even sent one attendee to the staircase (she kindly volunteered to take the picture just below).
We were doing our first lunch hour signing, so we decided to pare down our usual show to some essentials. It’s rare that I’ll say this, but I wish the Q&A could have gone on about twice or thrice as long. I wanted to answer the first question with a short essay, and I’m sure there were more good questions waiting to be flung our way. We also managed to sell out New Dominion’s stock.
One of the attendees also sent us out on a mission to a movie theater. We thought we’d found the typo. DONT LOOK BACK, a Bob Dylan documentary from 1967, was playing. Ah-ha! No apostrophe! Except…then we noticed the poster hanging below the marquee. The poster had it the same way. Was that really how the film was listed? Apparently so. The writer/director seemed to feel he was simplifying the language. After looking at the poster, I can’t help but think he just liked the look of the block of text, three four-letter words stacked on top of each other. In any event, the theater had correctly listed their film. On another side of the same marquee we noticed “CHARLO TESVILLE” but again declined to consider it a typo. These guys hadn’t been confused by a spell check or anything like that. They’d had it right. There was a space for the letter T that had probably just fallen down.
On a nearby chalkboard I spied yet another thing I thought was a typo: frites instead of fries. No, they were just being French. We’d heard many “that’s the Spanish way of spelling it” or “that’s how they spelled it back then” excuses for typos on the trip, but only here and now did it actually apply. That actually IS the French word, which is what they’d been aiming for.
Charlottesville seemed to have things well in hand, but we still had a few minutes before being charged for another hour in the parking garage, so we ducked in a couple more places. That’s when we saw this:
We asked the girl behind the counter if we could correct it, but she deferred to a boss who wasn’t present at the time. That’s when Jeff noticed that there were many copies of the same sign all over the store…but not all of them had the error. Out of four we looked at, two did and two didn’t. I have a theory that someone has already corrected the saved file for this sign that they pop up everywhere around the store. They just need to flush out the old ones and replace them with the new. Nothing for us to do.
One last stop, at an awesome little art store. Right beside the counter, I spied this:
We asked the clerk there to let us draw a tiny apostrophe in, but he felt he’d be remiss in his obligation to the sign-maker if he allowed us to alter it in any way. It suddenly occurred to me there’s a ridiculous difference between the first hunt, nearly two and a half years ago, and any hunting we do on this one, post-book. In a moment like this, I can’t help but think “chapter seven” to myself. Certainly there was a repetition of some basic responses as we traveled, and we learned to identify them along the way, but now that we’ve written the book, I’m also considering that “Hey! We already covered this!” Not only observed the pattern, but commented on it, analyzed it while researching for and writing the book.
Suffice it to say, we were a bit disappointed to end it there, blocked from an easy fix that was the only solid opportunity to make a difference in the pretty presentable Charlottesville textual landscape. Then again, he did promise to ask, and if he does, I won’t be surprised if the sign-creator says, “Oh yeah, of course.” That in fact, he’d be shocked to learn that the clerk hadn’t felt comfortable with us taking care of it right then.