One Thing or Another is a lighthearted look at aging, life, and the absurdities of it all.
By Mark McNease
I was reading something I’d written recently and noticed a typo. My first reaction was anger and embarrassment. Alone at my desk at sunrise, I looked around to make sure no one could see my crime—so strong is the shame and so universal the condemnation of typographical errors. How could I possibly have not seen my mistake before I put it out there for everyone to ridicule and use as proof that I don’t care or, worse, that I’m unprofessional?
I’ve worked in many offices in my lifetime. What I’ve noticed over the course of these decades is the overreaction people have to typos, myself among them. Pointing out someone else’s typo is possibly the single quickest route to a feeling of superiority, a fast grammatical high you can smoke at your cubicle. When we see a typo we see imperfection. We see sloppiness, inattention to detail, laziness. And most of all we see ourselves as we fear others will see us: as incompetent, imperfect, possibly even unqualified. All over a misspelling or a word our hurried brains and weary eyes corrected in our heads but not on the page.
The truth is we missed a typo because we were trying very hard, we were under deadline, and we’re simply human. We are not machines. We are not automated spell-checkers. We are living organisms that are often pushed to the limit. Our eyes are fragile, miraculous things that bring joy throughout our lives and can’t be accused of wrongdoing. Deceiving us, maybe, but not intentionally.
Perfectionism is usually neurosis in disguise. The universe is messy and full of typos. It lives, it dies, it riots and rots and lives again, with sloppy abandon all along the way. Life, and the universe it’s part of, is chaotic; we only think there’s order because we need to. We believe there are no typos when the cosmos, and the human genome, are riddled with them.
I fixed that typo once I confirmed no one was looking (at 5:00 a.m.), but I knew from my own reaction it was less about my standards than what others would think of me. He’s a bad writer! A careless editor (or secretary or blogger or assistant)! I’m none of those things, just a human being who needs to learn to live with the typos in life. The day there are none will be the day I’ve stopped living.
Mark McNease is the Editor of lgbtSr, a website “where age is embraced and life is celebrated,” serving the over-50 LGBTQ audience. He’s the author of the Kyle Callahan Mysteries, co-editor and publisher of the anthology Outer Voices Inner Lives (Lambda Literary Award finalist), host of the Live Mic with Mark podcast, and the co-creator and original writer for the Emmy and Telly winning children’s program Into the Outdoors.