Thursday, January 8, 2015

Old Pups and New Tricks

            A friend and fellow writer called this morning to discuss some manuscript issues. Like me, she learned keyboarding decades ago when it was still called typing, as on a typewriter. Period space space. 

Now she read the submission guidelines which commanded her to leave only one space after a period. Or else. She wanted to know when and why that had changed. I tried to give the answer I’d heard, but ended up telling her it was one more hoop to jump through to get the manuscript published. Now I would tell her to read the explanation at this website: There are many other articles about this fascinating topic.

Mostly she wanted to know what she could do about it other than go through 300 pages deleting spaces. She couldn’t even tell where she’d spaced once and where she’d spaced twice. The first thing I advised her was to click on the paragraph sign on the tool bar. Now she could see one dot per space between words and the cursed two spaces after periods.

We put our heads together—metaphorically speaking since we were in different towns—and figured it out. I reasoned:   I know you can use Find and Replace in MS Word to change a town’s name or a character’s name. For example, I decided to rename Mama, the hair-braiding Jamaican, Big Mama because Laney refers to her own mother as Mama. I decided my readers didn’t need two Mamas in the same chapter. Find and Replace let me do that. I usually choose Find Next instead of Replace All just so something weird doesn’t happen. 

And here’s an example of Find and Replace weirdness:  The story is told of a pastor who had recently presided over the funeral of a church member, Mary. He saved his funeral liturgy on his computer so he would be ready for the next sad event. Edith was the next to die, and the pastor went into the Word document to Find and Replace Mary with Edith. To save time, he chose Replace All.

The service went along smoothly the next day until the congregation began to recite the Apostles Creed and learned that Jesus was “was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Edith…”

BUT, I wondered, could you ask the computer to find two spaces and replace them with one space? I was astonished to learn that it could be done. I advised my friend to do it in stages. First Find and Replace period space space. Then question mark space space. Then exclamation point space space. But you really can do it in one fell swoop by spacing twice after Find, spacing once after Replace, and choosing Replace All.

Some of you young computer savvy whiz kids are snorting and saying incredulously, “You didn’t know that?” No, actually, my friend and I didn’t, but now we do, and I’m sharing it with anybody else born in the stone age who might want to know. And by the way, we stone age sisters know lots of stuff about lots of stuff you kids haven’t figured out yet. I might tell you if you stop ROFL and ask nicely.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

I Miss Inge

When I first met Inge—not her real name—and heard her German-accented English, my immediate reaction was, “I’m in a Mel Brooks movie!” Fellow Mel fans know his movies often feature German and Yiddish accents, which sound ironically similar, considering their shared and tragic history.

I quickly realized Inge is more marvelous than a stereotype. She speaks two languages fluently, which immediately makes her more intelligent than I, which is saying a lot, because I’m a Tucker girl. Then, she’s retired from a career as a registered nurse, which makes her not only more intelligent, but less squeamish than I. I admire nurses greatly, especially after my hospital experience in November 2013, but I believe I dealt with enough bodily functions raising four sons to last several lifetimes.

In Inge’s new career, she serves as Breakfast Hostess at the hotel where I recently spent a week. But Breakfast Hostess is too narrow a title for what Inge does each day. I would re-title her Morning Sunshine. 

I admit I would pretty much like anyone who has several varieties of coffee and a buffet prepared for me in my grogginess, but I’ve eaten from other hotel buffets and never made a personal connection. 

Inge greets everyone who enters the common room. Hello, my dear. Good morning, love. She asks how your evening was, what are your plans for the day, and shares anecdotes. Everyone, Man, Woman, Child. She’s especially affectionate toward the red-haired brothers in their shark and bunny slippers and the dark-haired sisters who brought along their own box of General Mills Frozen cereal.

I don’t know where all Inge’s friendliness and joy come from. Maybe her early experiences as an immigrant married to an American led her to reach out to everyone. Maybe it’s her faith. She told me about finding a statue of Mary for her garden in a local secondhand shop, so I assume she’s Catholic. Speculation. 

Maybe she exited the womb exuding sunshine, and the attending nurses dimmed the delivery room lights.

Many people aren’t happy at a low-paying, menial job. Apparently, this isn’t a problem for Inge, who must have earned several times minimum wage as an RN. Inge brings her happy with her to her early morning job and then goes home and takes a nap.

So I miss Inge. I miss her coffee, biscuits, bacon, eggs, sausages, bagels, muffins, cereal, cinnamon rolls, and yogurt, but mostly I miss her cheeriness. I fear I’ll never visit her again. Winter mornings will be colder and darker without her.

I can only think of one way around this loss:  I’ll have to become Inge. I won’t attempt the accent, and everyone who knows me knows I don’t do early morning joy.

But I can try.