“‘The Old Man and the Sea’ takes place in and off the shoes of Cuba.”

Okay, cheap throw-away blog entry, missing letter, typo, so what?

I am not one who should hold her sides laughing over an absent “r.” Every newsletter I’ve edited and typeset, every program or pamphlet I’ve written and laid out, probably every paper I’ve ever handed in, has been a Persian carpet (one shall-we-say-intentional error so I don’t seem to be challenging God in the perfection game—is that legend true, by the way, or just another legend?). As I tell my students, the eye corrects; the eye sees what it expects to see. Proofread aloud as a check against that, I say. But who among us really has time to proofread aloud?

Now of course everything is worse, thanks to (curses fall upon?) the spelling checkers built into every word-processing program. All they care about is whether a word is a word: whether it’s the right word is nothing to do with them. I like to run the spell-check because my keyboard is old and sometimes leaves out spaces between words. I also sometimes enjoy being smarter than the program (when my word choice isn’t in the program’s dictionary and I can mutter “it is too a word, Bill!” as I hit “ignore”) —or can take satisfaction in the program’s lack of experience, as I did during the two years I was on strike against the University of Bridgeport, when the name of their lawyer, who thought himself at least notorious if not famous, was “unknown” to Bill Gates…)

Students, though, are easy prey to these spell-checkers. Presented with alternatives to something they’ve typed in, they are all too often willing to bow to the program. Sometimes lately the program doesn’t even ask them, but just makes the substitution it “thinks” they meant. Ha ha. These are the times when I get blog material I can really riff on.

But no, this is just a little omitted letter, a little typo undetected by human or mechanical eye. Why write about it?

Because, as a costumer and former shoe-conscious adolescent, I know Cuban heels. And because the student wrote “in” instead of “on,” the choice one would have expected for “shores.”

And so I get the mental picture of an old man stumbling along some beach in Cuban heels, sometimes slipping out of them as the damp sand sucks them into itself, sometimes regaining his precarious balance and wobbling forward, thinking, “If the tide comes in now, the water will ruin these shoes!”

Alternatively I entertain the idea of a novella that takes place entirely inside a pair of shoes. The characters would be…well, let’s not go there this early in the morning.

Not recommended for a stroll on the beach.

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

One response to ““‘The Old Man and the Sea’ takes place in and off the shoes of Cuba.”

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