Uppermost House: I am standing, corrected…

PeterLewisTreehouseCMYKBy S. Peter Lewis

BN Columnist

Two weeks ago, I wrote a nostalgic little column for this newspaper using the scratches that my children put in our dining room table with eating utensils as a kind of lament over time long past.

After I tapped in the final period, I pondered a title. Often the toughest part of the job, this time it just jumped out at me: “A long for the fork.” A clever bit of wordsmithing that used the verb form of long (“to want something very much”) as a noun, the same way someone who just invented the cure for the common cold might write, “A hope for the future.”

A professional writer for the last three decades, I thought I’d written it all, but clearly not, as the echo of the final keystroke hadn’t yet returned from the living room and I was already hysterical. Rolling around on the floor wishing I wore Depends™ on deadline days. It was just the funniest play on words ever (FPOWE).

Ten days later, in my eye doctor’s office (I’m myopic as well as sentimental), I glanced down to see the open edition and was startled to see my headline had morphed. My long had been participled and was now longing. A laugh burst out of me unawares and I quickly squelched it, as if trying not to lose my dentures, which I don’t wear, but it’s always good to practice such things in advance. I made some lame excuse for my odd behavior, paid my bill, and left quickly. It’s never pleasant to see a grown man cry over grammar.

Driving home I brooded, eventually slumping into steaming indignation. O the gall, the impudence, the raging arrogance…I must have to assume that my editor won’t make changes to keep me from looking ridiculous! “But I wanted to look ridiculous!” I shouted.

As I crossed Willett Brook, I decided to feign outrage and when I got home I fired off an e-mail to the editor of this rag (journalistic term, to be interpreted here as endearing), pounding away on the keys but avoiding ALL CAPS in case I needed them at the trial.

I used phrases like “utterly boring and pedestrian” and “editorial aplomb” and “strain alarmingly hard against the worn halter of responsible (and perhaps respectable) journalism” and “despite my now vast tenure” and words like “contorted” and “summarily.” I was going to use aghast, but I wasn’t sure how to spell it.

The response from Headquarters was swift and acquiescent. My attempt at intimidation had succeeded wildly!

“Sorry…write what you wish,” my boss said. (Note: I may have…okay, I totally took that out of context… they call that “editorial license.”)

Glowing in victory, I shared my e-mail barrage with a friend and he also responded quickly, bashing me as an “unparticipled gallot” and suggesting my editor “should win an award for tolerance.” (This also taken wildly out of context.)

Gulp. Perhaps I’d gone too far.

“Do you think I was too harsh?” I asked my friend. “Do you think I should send chocolate?”

“Not sure of your relationship with your editor,” he wrote. “But I suspect it’s sound if it has lasted this long. Still, you should definitely send chocolate. Here’s the address…” And then he included his own address.

And so I sent a crawling little half-apology back to the paper, making light of my little tantrum in a sort of pitiful recant regarding my original long and their subsequent longing: “Hahahahaha. I was totally fine with it,” I wrote. “And it was fun writing the phoney upbraid.”

And then I added a little self-deprecation with the assistance of my wife: “…he’s weird, but harmless” and ended with, “There’s definitely a column in here somewhere…”

And so here it is! And here I stand, corrected. Or perhaps I’m standing, corrected. Or correctedly, I stand, here. But I’m sitting, actually. Oh, I don’t know…

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