I am not bothered by many of the things that annoy other people. For example, there is not one ounce of road rage inside my whole body. Drivers can cut me off in traffic, adjust their driving speeds to exactly coincide with mine to make it impossible for me to pass them, take a parking space I have been waiting on for five minutes, fail to signal an upcoming turn, or even stop dead in the middle of the road to finish sending a text and I don’t get flustered. I figure that as long as nobody gets hurt, the “no harm, no foul” rule applies.
I don’t criticize people for putting up their Christmas lights before Halloween or for leaving them up and turned on until Easter. I have no problem with people wearing wet swimsuits in the library. I don’t even care if people use the same plate when making a return trip to a food bar as long as they do not let the serving spoon touch their plate, arm, clothing, or floor. I say live and let live.
I save my fury to vent on important issues: printed spelling, grammar and word usage errors in public places. I am incensed every time I go into a grocery store and see a sign above a register reading: 10 items or less. One cart does not contain “less” items than another cart. It may contain fewer, but never less. If I ever find a grocery store with lane signs reading: 10 items or fewer, I will patronize that store; I don’t care how high its prices are. If their eggs cost a dollar apiece, I will buy no fewer eggs than I always buy.
Another thing that makes my blood pressure go up is seeing a billboard, which almost certainly is costing someone thousands of dollars a month to display, containing a glaring error. I almost wrecked my car the other day when I saw a prominent highway billboard proclaiming: One out of every five high school students are using illegal drugs. I don’t want any high school students to use illegal drugs, but that is not the thing that caused me to hit my brakes and scream, “What?” One out of every five high school students is, not “are” using illegal drugs. Were I not afraid of heights, I might make it my business to paint corrections on such billboards to save the people who put them up so much embarrassment.
I know I am not the only one who is troubled by these errors. I once saw a sign on a restaurant door that read: Shoes and shirts are required to eat here. Someone had scribbled next to those words: Socks may eat wherever they wish.
As a public servant, I want to educate people and help them correct word errors for which they are responsible, but for some reason, such conversations tend not to go well for me. People often misunderstand the point I am trying to make and think I am saying something that I am not saying. I saw on the check-out counter of a sandwich shop recently a cup containing coins and bearing this sign: We are greatful for your tips. I wanted to explain to the clerk the problem that I had with the sign; however, I suspect that if I had broached the subject with her, she rather snootily would have told me that the shop was entitled to have a tip cup if it wanted to have one. Then as I tried to make a graceful exit she would have added something like, “And for all intensive purposes, it’s none of your business!”
One day I returned from grocery shopping with a frozen Sara Lee cheesecake. I took the cheesecake out of the box to thaw and just as I tossed the empty carton into the trash I spotted these words on its side: Nobody Doesn’t Like Sara Lee. Having listened to Sara Lee commercials since I was a child, I knew that the company’s slogan was “Nobody Does It Like Sara Lee.” How could such a well-known, reputable company as Sara Lee allow an error like that to appear on its packaging? I put together possible scenarios in my mind. Maybe a new plant had opened and the person responsible for printing the words on the carton was new to the company and had just made an honest mistake. These things happen.
Fortunately, on the box was printed a 1-800 number for people to use when calling with concerns about Sara Lee products. I was certainly concerned and so I called. After jumping through the usual prerecorded hoops I was finally connected with a customer service representative. I told the young woman as clearly as I could that I had just spotted a printing error on a box of Sara Lee cheesecake. Instead of immediately thanking me and assuring me that the error would be corrected, she began asking me all kinds of irrelevant questions. “Where did you buy this product?” “Do you often buy Sara Lee products?” “Are you usually pleased with the Sara Lee products you purchase?” I was patient to a point but finally I pressed her to hear me out. I said, “This box of Sara Lee cheesecake that I bought today has printed on it the words: Nobody Doesn’t Like Sara Lee. “Yes?” she replied. “Well,” I said, “That’s wrong.” “What is wrong about it?” she asked. Astounded that she, a sales representative, did not even know her company’s slogan, I explained. “The box should read: Nobody Does It Like Sara Lee.” “No, it shouldn’t,” she explained. “That is not our company’s slogan. The slogan is ‘Nobody Doesn’t Like Sara Lee.'” “What?” I almost screamed into the phone. “Are you telling me that the Sara Lee slogan is actually ‘Nobody Doesn’t Like Sara Lee’?” “Yes,” she replied. “That slogan appears on all of our products.” Completely aghast I shot back, “A double negative? Nobody doesn’t like . . .” “Yes,” she said. “But that is grammatically incorrect,” I insisted. “We know,” she said, “but we like it.”
What is wrong with people?