Sunday, June 17, 2007

Typos? What Typos?

It's been almost a month since I posted an entry in this blog. I have been sharing bloggin' time between here and MySpace. And when I'm not bloggin', I'm shootin' and when I'm not shootin' I'm processin' and when I'm not processin' I'm generally doin' nothing.

That is the extent of my life these days. Not much to it, but I like it. Yes, it could be better. Jessica Beal could be my next door neighbor, or I could be able to go anywhere I want to shoot the photos I want. But she ain't and I can' I don't worry about it.

Hell, I can't even afford to get my desktop system working properly. And when it doesn't work correctly, I am forced into using a laptop which is almost as old as I am. And I can't stand the keyboard. My desktop system has one of those ergonomic keyboards. I love that keyboard. I hate straight keyboards. I spend almost as much time fixin' typos as I do typin' words worth typin'.

I hate typos. During my Air Force career, I was assigned as the editor of a couple of base newspapers. My first one was stateside and for the most part, when I submitted copy which had typos, the typesetter would correct them. She was great like that. She was also hot...but taken.

Then I was assigned to Aviano AB, Italy. I loved that assignment. As editor of The Vigileer, I had a lot of responsibility in that position, especially since I was the only staff member. But the worst part was fixin' the typos. Some English words are very similar to Italian words. So, when the typesetters saw a similar word, they typed the Italian word out of habit. It didn't happen all the time, but it happened often enough to keep me on my toes. I generally caught almost all the typos. Some did get by me, but I rarely had one on the front page...until a week in September 1976.

Just prior to my arrival in Italy, a series of large earthquakes struck the region. Close to a thousand people died in the strongest quake. Towns were in a shambles and most of the damage was in the towns surrounding Aviano. The people in the area knew what killed the majority of the people. It was buildings falling on them.

So when another fairly strong quake hit on the day my newspaper copy was being set, the typesetters decided they didn't want to be in the building they worked in until they were sure it was safe. That meant waiting until the next day, then making sure the building was still standing. But my timetable had taken a was a day behind schedule. When I arrived at the publishers to layout the paper, none of my set copy had arrived. At this point in time, my newspaper was hot lead. Each line of type was formed on a strip of lead. The letters, the words, the pictures, everything about the newspaper was mirrored so it would print correctly. When I looked at the columns of type as they were in the boards, the letters of each word was reversed. Normally, I would run some ink over the plate, press a large sheet of paper on it, and then take the proof sheet back to the base and proofread the paper that evening. But I was behind schedule, and in order to publish the paper on Friday, I had to make some decisions.

As I was trying (my Italian wasn't that good and no one spoke English at the printing plant) to explain my decision, another shaker rumbled through the area. I watched as everyone in the plant ran out the large double doors about 30 feet away from me. I watched as dirt fell from the ceiling rafters, I watched as the lights swung back and forth and I watched the last of the workers and followed her gorgeous body out of the building.

Here it was Wednesday morning, the newspaper needed to be "put to bed" that evening so it could be printed on Thursday and distributed around the base and town on Friday. It had been drilled into me that an editor NEVER missed a publishing date. Well, not long after we exited the building, the typesetter's (their building was about a half mile way) delivery man arrived with the first run of copy. I did the best I could to proofread what I had, marked the mistakes and sent the changes back to the typesetters. A couple of hours later, another tremor rumbled through the area. Well, that did it. Everyone quit working and went home.

The owner of the printing plant said if I was there early in the morning, he would make sure everything was done by noon so the paper could get printed and delivered on time. So, the next morning, I was at the typesetters at 6 am...and they weren't. I waited around for about 30 minutes and then went to the printing plant. As I walked in the door, yet another quake shook the area. After hanging around outside for a couple of hours and noticing the building wasn't coming down on top of us, we all went back inside. I told the owner about the typesetters and he called their office. No one answered. He then called the typesetter boss at home and talked to him for a few minutes.

When the owner hung up the phone, he told me that the typesetter's building sustained some damage the day before and his workers were off until the building could be repaired the next week. Now remember, no one there spoke English, but a man who worked in bar a couple of buildings down did and that is where we went to talk over the situation. With a cup of Cafe Correcto and some sort of pastry, the three of us translating what the owner and myself said. In the end, I called my office, explained the situation to my supervisor told him I would do what I could to fix the typos, and get the paper out Friday morning when it should hit the street. Since we had no idea of when things would return to normal, he agreed and told me to get the paper out on time.

Well, I did the best I could to fix the typos, especially those on the front page. And I got the paper out on time. But at a cost. During the lunchtime, a lieutenant who I had never met walked into my office and plopped a copy of the paper on my desk. He had circled every typo he found in the paper in red ink. As he dropped the paper, he said, "I have a degree in journalism and I would have rather died than put out a piece of shit paper like you did, sergeant. What have to say for yourself." I looked at the lieutenant and said, "Talk to my boss, sir. Captain So-and-so will return from lunch shortly." He left without saying another word.

I unfolded the paper he dropped in front of me and started counting. On the front page alone, there were 17 typos. I knew there would be a lot since I couldn't fix all of them the day before, but I didn't think there were that many. Looking through the rest of the paper, there were a total of 122 typos. Normally, I would have three or four in my eight page tabloid. I reached for my roladex and got the number for my counterpart at higher headquarters and called him to relay the news about my paper. After talking to him, and explaining the situation, he understood and said he wouldn't count the paper against me. I vowed then and there that I would do everything I could to get rid of typos in things I type.

But they still get through and this friggin keyboard isn't helping...hehe.

But you know, the worst part of the story above is this: I put out 24 issues a year (skipped New Years and Christmas weeks). In early December of that earthquake ridden year, headquarters for the Air Force announce the dates of the mandatory newspaper submissions for the annual media contest. You guessed earthquake ravaged edition was one of the mandatory submissions. Naturally, I didn't win any awards that year.

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