Have you ever been curled up in your most comfortable chair reading the latest Michael Connelly novel, steaming mug of Swiss Miss instant cocoa on the end table, and out of nowhere discovered that the book contained a misspelling or typographical error?
Didn't it just piss you off?
It baffles me no end how mistakes find their way into best-selling hardcover novels by A-list authors. This isn't some shitty-ass local newspaper like the Montgomery Advertiser (slogan: Alabama's #1 Bird Cage Lining Since 1948) we're talking about here. These are major publishing houses like Little, Brown and Company or Random House who undoubtedly employ teams of highly-paid copy editors to sit around reading manuscripts and see that no errors make it to the final print run.
So I guess it shouldn't surprise me when I'm driving past Rug Masters, an outdoor area rug distribution center (I'm being kind, it's really a trash-laden street corner), and notice a horrific misspelling on their signage:
That's right, Rug Masters is having their BIGEST SALE EVER!
I can only imagine two scenarios that would allow something like this to happen.
Scenario 1: The owner of Rug Masters (we'll call him Eddie) decides to order an eye-catching yellow and red vinyl banner to display on the chain-link fence, advertising their Biggest Sale Ever(!). Eddie places an order with Big Dave's Quality Signs and Banners, and on the form where you're supposed to write what you want your sign (or banner) to say, he writes "BIGEST SALE EVER!" Maybe he was in a hurry, maybe he's a third-grade dropout who was absent on "double-the-consonant-and-then-add-the-suffix" day, one way or another Eddie screwed up. Clearly, this is all his fault.
But let's continue down this road a little farther.
Big Dave receives the order form from Rug Masters and is about to pass it along to his banner-production team when he notices the mistake. I guess it's possible that he can't spell worth a damn either and doesn't catch it, but that's pretty unlikely. In order for the spelling error to go to print, Big Dave must have thought, "Ah, screw it, it's his sign, we'll spell it however he wants." While this is definitely not the proper attitude for someone in an upper management position, maybe Big Dave was having a rough day or just wanted to jerk around with a linguistically-challenged area rug salesman. In his shoes, I may very well have done the same thing for no reason other than shits and giggles. So ignoring the mistake, Big Dave passes the order form down the line to his sign production team.
But wait. We're not done yet.
The gentleman in sign production, let's call him Phil, is now in charge of making Rug Masters's advertising vision a reality. His job description probably includes "designing banners," "painting signs," and other such artistic phrases. "Proof-reading" probably (indeed, hopefully) doesn't come up all that often. Even so, we're not talking about running spell-check on a 300-page doctorate thesis, this is a three-word banner. I'm going to assume that Phil also notices that the word "bigest" is shy one G. So he gets on the horn and calls Big Dave in the front office.
"Uh, Dave . . . Yeah, it's Phil over in the production department . . . We just got this order for a Rug Masters banner . . . right, that one . . . uh, well, seems like they spelled 'biggest' wrong . . . yeah, you want me to fix it or just let it go? . . . 'fuck 'im,' you say? . . . well, all right, you're the boss."
Against his better judgment, Phil goes ahead and makes the banner, misspelling and all. It's shipped via UPS to Eddie at Rug Masters, who obliviously hangs it on his chain-link fence.
Which brings us to the other possibility.
Scenario 2: The owner of Rug Masters (we'll still call him Eddie, I wouldn't want to confuse anyone) decides to order an eye-catching yellow and red vinyl banner to display on the chain-link fence, advertising their Biggest Sale Ever(!). Eddie places an order with Big Dave's Quality Signs and Banners, and on the form where you're supposed to write what you want your sign (or banner) to say, he writes "BIGGEST SALE EVER!" in his neatest printing, every word spelled correctly.
Big Dave receives the order form, double-checks it for accuracy as per company policy, and passes it along to his banner-production team headed by Phil, a notorious dullard and a bit of a slacker.
Phil creates the Rug Masters banner but for whatever reason -- maybe it was the three Harvey Wallbangers he had at lunch, maybe it was just his usual carelessness -- he unfortunately leaves a critical letter G out of the word "biggest." He boxes up the banner and ships it to Rug Masters.
Don't you think that Eddie (he's the owner of Rug Masters, remember?) might at this point make a phone call to Big Dave, something to the effect of, "Hey, dipshit! You sent me a sign with a spelling mistake! I'm sending this back, and you're gonna ship out a new one pronto!" He's certainly not going to say, "Ah, close enough," and hang the sign on his fence, just begging to be publicly ridiculed by some sarcastic humor writer.
So I batted those two scenarios around in my head for a few days and finally decided to get to the bottom of this. On my way home from work a few days ago, I stopped by Rug Masters to see what was what. As it turns out, the manager's name is not Eddie, but we'll keep calling him that, just to maintain continuity and protect his privacy.
Eddie is an older guy, probably in his mid-50's. He's wiry without being scrawny and his graying flat-top hair cut screams out "ex-marine!" He's wearing faded blue jeans and a well-worn Rug Masters sweatshirt. Here's our conversation:
EDDIE: Help ya find sumpin'?
ME: No, I'm not really interested in buying a rug or anything, I just wanted to ask you about your sign.
EDDIE: My sign?
ME: Yeah, the yellow banner over there, advertising your Biggest Sale Ever.
EDDIE: What about it?
ME: There's a word spelled wrong. Biggest. It's supposed to have two Gs.
EDDIE: Yeah, we've had a few folks mention that.
ME: And yet you leave it up there?
EDDIE: Still makes sense, right? Biggest Sale Ever. Hell, you figgered it out.
ME: Well, sure, but . . .
EDDIE: And it ain't like I'm a school teacher or a writer or sumpin'. I sell rugs. People want a rug, they come buy a rug without worryin' all about a messed up sign. Can't see that it makes all that much a diff'rence.
ME: Don't you think it gives your place an air of, I don't know, carelessness?
EDDIE: Take a look at my rug selection there. Tell me what ya think.
ME (looking over his selection of area rugs): Actually, they're pretty nice. I like that round one over there.
EDDIE: Now, if I told you you could have that rug for forty bucks, what would you say?
ME: I'd say that's a pretty good deal. I've seen 'em at Bed, Bath and Beyond for double that.
EDDIE: What the hell you go to Bed, Bath and Beyond for?
ME: I have a fiancee.
EDDIE: Got it. Anyway, if I'm offerin' you a top quality area rug at a discount rate, you really gonna give much of a shit if my sign's spelt wrong?
ME: I suppose not. Can I ask how it happened, though? Who screwed up the sign?
EDDIE: Probably me when I ordered it. I know how to spell, 'course, but my handwritin' leaves sumpin' to be desired.
ME: Fair enough.
EDDIE: So, you wanna buy that rug?
ME: What the hell. Roll it up.
There you have it. Eddie's handwriting was the culprit, but still, the sign company should've figured it out. So we're going to lay the real blame on Big Dave and his drunken employee Phil.