By JEFF PICKELL
For a while, I considered becoming a teacher because I love marking things wrong. There are few things I enjoy more than marring neat, legible handwriting with a sloppy X, or an even more thoughtless slash.
I relished my time as a teacher’s aide in high school, especially checking the papers of people I didn’t like. I relished the thought that, with each one of those sloppy X’s, I was sending that person one step further down the road to a job centered around the handling of smelly things.
I realized, though, that my zest for marking things wrong could hardly be compared with my feelings toward high schoolers, who rank a dash above middle schoolers, who rank a dash above having a bag of soggy garbage poured on my head on the list of things I can’t tolerate.
Nope, when considering an occupation, I definitely had to take into account my general hatred toward sprightly youths and the like. I also had to take into account my general hatred toward people, objects beginning with the letter M, and the entire emotional spectrum starting at “so-so” and building in happiness to “euphoric.”
Imagine why I was so taken by the ad for this position, which read “WANTED: Youthful, disenfranchised, disillusioned male/female who tends to see the glass half empty. Propensity for spending long, cold nights alone and brooding in the dark preferable. Job includes talking to people, mostly over the phone, long, miserable Mondays, and daily excursions to Ohio. Good writing skills a must. Some copy editing required.”
Copy editing, eh? Why that’s kind of like marking things wrong, isn’t it? And hey, anybody can fake being a good writer. All you have to do is use intelligent sounding words like “regard,” “pursuit” and “rumbustious” and connectors like “if,” “with,” “Smith,” and “hunky dory.” Most importantly, the job would give me plenty of time to hate everything except the things I don’t hate. In that regard, my pursuit of the position was was swift and rumbustious, if, by hunky dory, Smith...uh...with.
In fact, I’m so good at faking being a good writer that the University of Michigan gave me a degree with high distinction and honors in English. Heck, for a while, I even thought something along the lines of, “I’m going to be the best #$%& writer these folks have ever seen.”
Then I moved to Morenci and met Colleen Leddy, the only person in the world who likes marking things wrong more than me. To say there was “some” red ink on my first feature would be an understatement. In fact, as far as I could tell, Colleen must’ve abandoned the red pen altogether, because the only way that much red could’ve gotten onto the paper is if she took into the backyard and riddled it with paint balls.
Now, to be fair, Colleen doesn’t mark things “wrong” per se; she offers constructive criticisms, as do David and Kim and Rich and everyone else who proofreads. But Colleen is probably the most diligent finder of errors I have ever met, and this means a lot coming from a person who spends most of his time pointing out imperfections in people, places, things and ideas (i.e. myself, Canada, toothpaste and love, respectively).
Her diligence isn’t a bad thing in this business, not when it’s the truth that counts. And I’m telling you kids, right now, that the truth is a hard thing to come by, and that you’ll never know the truth about yourself, especially as a writer, until you’ve been ruthlessly Leddy-fied.
You may think you’re verbose and precise and invincible now, but wait until a mild-mannered librarian mother of three writes “poo poo cah cah” next to one of your wordy sentences. Wait until you re-read it and say aloud, “Wow, that sentence really does stink.”
Wait until you look to the top of your own column and think, “Now who’s handling the smelly things?”- Nov. 30, 2005