Friday, July 11, 2008

The Extreme Necessity of Punctuation

Fascinating story title on CNN just now - "Man saves lives, donates 50 gals blood." Excuse me? This is a video story, which means I can't get it because I don't subscribe to their video feed (since I think you have to pay for it). However, I think I prefer it just as it is, because it's such a rich field for speculation.

Now, I am the first to appreciate the problems of space in headlines. One of my first non-theatre jobs out of high school was working in a company for which I wrote catalog copy, and I sat there with a printer's ruler carefully measuring how many ens and ems I had to work with for a headline and the selling copy. (By the way, if you think this was a glamorous copywriting job, you would be entirely wrong. The copy I was writing was about things like radial tires and sump pumps.) These days all of this is done by computer, but back then you had to do it yourself. Ens and ems, incidentally, are measures of how much space letters and spaces take up - you used to hear copy editors saying things like, "Put an en dash in!"

But surely that line about the blood could have been fixed somehow. Obviously it looks like this life-saving character has donated the blood of 50 gals to a blood bank (that would have made it "50 gals' blood", of course), which can't possibly be right, can it? I mean, surely they can't be talking about his saving lives if he's drained 50 gals of their blood. I know vampires are madly popular nowadays, but still...

So one presumes that he himself has donated 50 gals of blood. Well, you know, I honestly think (and remember, I'm experienced!) that room could have been made for some sort of period in there. Like, Man saves lives, donates 50 gals. of blood. This would have made it completely clear. One can only hope that the gent has done this over a fairly long period of time - otherwise we're sort of back to the vampires. I don't think the human body actually CONTAINS 50 gallons of blood at any one time.

I am unclear about this whole thing because I will not under any circumstances donate blood. First and foremost, I'm violently needle-shy, and my nurse technicians at my doctor's office laugh their heads off because every time they come at me for a blood test I pick up a book and start reading very assiduously with my head firmly pointed in the opposite direction from whatever they're up to. This is a great improvement. It took me years to explain that if you didn't let me do some sort of displacement activity, I simply passed out cold. I would get up, say, "Oh, that wasn't so bad at..." - thud. The other reason I don't give blood is because I'm A. RH negative, which makes a lot of people sick if they're given my blood, and B. I take blood thinners, which makes my blood kind of iffy for people who don't need blood thinners. (And I carry nice little cards in my wallet announcing all this, just in case. I hate any medical anything, having had WAY too much to do with it, but let's not be silly. Suppose I get in an accident? I wear clean underwear too, just like Mother told me.)

I have had the most frustrating damn day. I haven't heard from my possible new temp agency, so I was very pleased when my old temp agency (the real one, not the crazy lady) called and asked if I wanted to work next week at a law firm I like very much (or at least as much as I like any law firm or any job that's not in film/theatre). This was around 11:30 in the morning. I leaped at the chance, and the guy said he'd call me back after he talked to somebody or another.

Well, he finally got back to me about 3:30 in the afternoon to tell me they'd decided to go with one of their internal people.

This sort of thing infuriates me. Either don't call me, or call me for a job that actually exists, for God's sake. Don't make me sit around all day and wait for something non-existent.

So the whole day was wasted - I mean, it isn't as if I had anything earthshaking to do, but I do like to get dressed and take a walk, if only over to Christopher Street where the cheapest cigarettes are to be found (cheap being relative these awful days). So I screwed around on the computer, submitted myself for several background jobs on my casting website, read Dickens, ate some things, and in general did fuck-all. Growl.

However, things are looking up. I actually have social engagements tomorrow night, Monday night, and Tuesday night! Isn't that amazing? Tomorrow I'm going to see my pal John's play in company with a few of the other Richard III survivors, Monday night I'm off to the East Village for a friend's performance at a silly restaurant I love because you can get cheap red caviar and blini, and Tuesday night I'll be off with that same pal to the Philharmonic concert in Central Park. And they're doing Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Sibelius! I mean, what's not to like about Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, and I adore Sibelius because he's wonderfully creepy. I produced Hamlet once upon a time (not to mention playing Gertrude and doing the costumes - should someone ever ask you to do this - DON'T), and I used Sibelius for the Ghost's music. He wrote a piece called the Swan of Tuonela (sp? - although I think I'm right) which is just spine chilling and was absolutely perfect for the Ghost. And fireworks afterwards! I love, love, love concerts in the park with pals. Lots of lovely food and wine and music and talk and outdoors in Central Park at night without getting mugged - what more can one ask?

Speaking of Central Park at night, why are people so goddamn stupid about it? Almost every day there's a story in one paper or the other about somebody getting mugged at 2 am in Central Park. You want to attempt to explain to me why on God's green earth anybody with a brain at all is in Central Park at 2 am? Unless, of course, it's another mugger and somebody got him first. This would be lovely. One story I just loved, in a ghastly sort of way. This was a tourist who got mugged. According to the story, he was in the park after dark, "carrying bags from Tiffany's, Coach, and Louis Vuitton." Hell, I'd sure as hell mug him, wouldn't you? I think some people need minders when they travel.

Speaking of which (tourists, it was, I think), once when I worked downtown, I was waiting for a bus on my way home and there was a tourist lady there with a couple of dollar bills in her hand. Well, all of us nice New Yorkers (and we are, you know, if you're not stupid), told her gently that the bus wouldn't take dollar bills and we'd be glad to get together and change them for her. She WOULD NOT LISTEN. She kept saying that it was just fine, and she was sure the bus driver would take the bills, and we kept telling her that no, he wouldn't...and of course the bus came, and guess what? And this, I might add, was a well-dressed American! We were not attempting to convey our advice to a non-English speaking person. She was just stubborn as a mule - I bet she was the absolute ruler of her garden club at home in Little East Armpit, Illinois.

Another time I was on the same bus (well, I'm not fond of subways - buses are much more fun) - it was the 6th Avenue bus - when we came to Chambers Street and there was a HUGE crowd of people at the bus stop. I mean, 40 or 50 people. Now the bus was already crowded (well, it was rush hour, after all), and the lady who seemed to be the leader of this mob got on the bus and announced to the driver that all of these people were about to get on the standing room only bus. The driver, quite logically, said, "Hey, lady, look at this bus. I ain't got room for all those people." And boy, did she try. He had to get them on the bus, they were an Italian tour group and they must get on the bus, and the driver kept wearily saying, "Lady, there ain't no ROOM on the bus." Eventually, she was persuaded that there actually wasn't enough room on the bus - helped along by the original passengers, who had been patiently waiting for ten minutes by now and probably all had festering dinners in their CrockPots - and got off the bus.

Honestly. When I travel, I do my best to sink quietly into the scenery. I don't go places without research. Admittedly, I go to our own house in France and to London, which is essentially my city, but I still don't behave like a tourist. I dress politely (gosh, I guess I'm not a real American - I don't own a single pair of Spandex bike shorts, flip flops, or a skin tight wifebeater) and behave politely. And I have the best damn time! So there. As always - give what you want to get - and things work out quite nicely.

Love, Wendy

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