Woog’s World / Unnecessary words take up space and time
I was on a plane the other day.
As we taxied down the runway, and my seatmate took out her foul-smelling lunch — because why eat in the terminal, with all the space in the world, when you can instead irritate the person sitting 2 inches away? — the flight attendant went into his spiel.
He pointed out the exit rows. He mentioned what to do in the event of a “waterborne landing.” And of course, he tutored us in how to operate our seat belts. I learned that I should place the metal fitting into the buckle, and adjust the strap so that it fit low and tight around my waist. To release it — in case of a waterborne landing, I suppose — all I had to do was lift the face plate of the buckle.
All of us, of course — and by “all,” I mean every person living on the entire planet, except perhaps a few members of a lost tribe off the coast of Indonesia, who were not on the flight from New York to Kansas City anyway.
As I get older, I’ve grown less tolerant of words that take up unnecessary space. I’m not just talking about idiotic seat belt announcements, or the inanities that spew from President Donald Trump’s little fingers into his big Twitter feed.
This stuff is everywhere.
Today’s mail brought a flyer from a roofing company. Setting aside the fact that I live in a condo — so I am not in a position to, myself, hire a roofer — this come-on included the offer of a free estimate.
I don’t know what kind of world this roofing firm lives in. But in the one I inhabit, no one has ever charged me for an estimate.
Not a soul. The blinds company did not say I had to pay them to learn how much new drapes would cost. My dentist did not tell me it would be such-and-such an amount before he’d tell me the cost of a crown. Some Realtors don’t even give you a free estimate when they estimate what you’ll pay to buy or sell your house (or condo).
Every quote in the world is free, people. But that does not mean you have to use quotation marks freely. Random quote marks are taking over the world, and I don’t like it one bit.
I was taught — admittedly, this was back in a previous century — that quotation marks have a few uses.
They denote the beginning and end of a title or quoted passage (hence their name). Or they indicate that a word or phrase is regarded as slang or jargon, or — listen carefully — is not actually true. Hence the phrase “air quotes,” which you use by curling your fingers when referring to your mother-in-law as “lovely,” or Donald Trump as “the president.”
So it is a bit off-putting to see on the side of a truck, as I did a few days ago, that a landscape company is (quote-unquote) “eco-friendly.” Is that a wink-wink? Are they really not, but just pretend to be? Are they mocking those of us who really do prefer our lawns to be fertilized without poisons? I’m not sure. But at least they offer free quotes.
My crotchety, get-off-my-lawn complaints are not limited to flight attendants, roofing companies and “eco-friendly” lawn guys. There are stationary signs that have bugged me for years (don’t get me started on the difference between stationary and stationery, either).
For example, hitting golf balls is prohibited on the grass soccer field behind Staples High School. I know this, because I am the boys soccer coach there. But I would not know this if I were a random golfer, because the sign is attached to the baseball diamond’s centerfield fence.
This is as far from where a golfer might drive golf balls as is humanly possible, at that particular site. And the sign has no graphics — no Tiger Woods with a red slash through him, say — that would cause any normal person to even glance at it.
But all that is beside the point. I have never seen anyone driving golf balls on Loeffler Field, despite the sign. Because, after all, it is not a driving range.
Not far away, along Staples’ entrance way, near the cafeteria and fieldhouse, there are speed limit signs. Do you know what the speed limit is?
Seriously? Do you know what 5 miles an hour is? You cannot physically drive that slow. And that’s not just my opinion. Speedometers don’t even have 5. They start at 10.
So drive carefully. Just don’t do it at 5 mph.
And fasten your seat belt.
Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his “Woog’s World” appears each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His personal blog is danwoog06880.com.