Friday, November 18, 2011

In Which I Consider a Career Change from Writing to Tagging, Given My Fame as the Grammar Vandal

I have been driving a herd of teenagers (what IS the proper term for a group of  them: gaggle?  exaltation? outcropping?) to rehearsals for several weeks now, and, like carpoolers everywhere, we've covered a wide range of topics on the road.  Granted, the rate at which songs are sung (loudly), or lines of random dialogue are spouted (in character) is probably higher than the gang heading from Maple Grove to the Travelers Tower every day, but that's to be expected. They are, as I am frequently reminded, thespians.

I do my best to be a good sport on these jaunts -- to shut up most of the time, listen hard, buck them up a bit when their dobbers seem to be down. And my rewards have been immeasurable. The day Natalie confessed her dream of sticking her hand out the window to touch a moving truck. The crab-walking intersection guy. The book reader at the bus stop. Ian's repeated panic over directions. An entire carful of kids imitating Mary Katherine's laugh. 

After all this conversation, we're getting to the point where we know the other person's story before it starts. But this week, the topic that arose was a random act of vandalism I committed last October, and I received a thrilling, and unexpected, response. 

We were talking about getting older, and I was telling the girls that I was finding it fun to act like a crazy old lady whenever I wanted, and that they should remember, when they panicked at their first wrinkle at age 30, that good times might lie ahead. Age brings the freedom to act like a nutjob, I said. Mary Katherine took this as the opportune moment to mention the time I vandalized the National Coming Out Day Poster at Southwest High School by correcting the "you're" to "your" and adding, pedantically (but humorously; at least that was what I was aiming for) “Good grammar is appropriate for all orientations.”

Natalie gasped as if the crab-walking pedestrian had just appeared in the back seat. "That was YOU?" she asked. Usually a question like "That was YOU?" does not bode well, so, warily, I admitted it was.  She shrieked. "We were so excited about that!  A friend of mine xeroxed the poster with your comment and, like, papered the school with them.  EVERYONE saw it."

Gosh, that made me happy.  Some too-ironic-to-function Southwest High Schooler had made me a Grammar Vandal star.  And so, with a modest moue and a tug of my forelock, I re-present the original blog post, although I think it reads a little better now that I realize that it was my ticket to a snippet of fleeting glory.

Saturday, October 9, 2010  / Your Welcome: The Grammar Vandal Strikes Southwest High

Yes, officer, I did deface that poster in the halls of my daughter’s high school. But no jury in the world, as least one that knew the difference between possessives and contractions, would ever convict me.

Here’s what happened: Mary Katherine and I were killing time at intermission during a play. We saw a lovely four-color poster for National Coming Out Day. (October 11! It just seems to come earlier every year. And I haven’t even wrapped my National Coming Out Gifts, or finished hanging the festive National Coming Out Day garlands!

The poster encouraged everyone to celebrate that day by wearing a “name badge that identifies you’re orientation.”

Of course you can’t blame me for whipping out a ballpoint and changing the “you’re” to “your.” And yes, I did add just a teeny bit of editorial comment: “Good grammar is appropriate for all orientations.” Golly, that will learn ‘em.

Mary Katherine, by the way, thought all of this was great. It reminded me of one of her favorite games when she was small, which she invented and named, “Playing Hurdmans.” She’d loved the play, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” and she was especially taken with the smoking, cursing, bullying delinquents of the piece, the Hurdmans. We’d finish Sunday breakfast and she’d beg, “Let’s Play Hurdmans.” The game involved her acting out crimes – setting fire to the cat was a popular one, as I recall – and me reacting with shock and horror. Even then, this girl knew that villains get the best parts.

So there we were in the hallway, me feeling like a cross between a pinch-faced librarian and Zorro, her laughing and egging me on. The minute I’d finished with my egregious act of vandalism, she turned to me, eyes shining. “Let’s deface something else before Act Two!” she urged, grinning wickedly. Turns out her orientation has been a closeted poster-defacer all these years, and it took this one bold move for her to come out.

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