Opinion: In a perpetual comma
I misplace a lot of things: keys wallet gloves the dog’s leash. Recently I misplaced something that may not seem very important unless you read that last sentence carefully. Then you will realize that believe it or not I can’t find my comma.
Yes it’s true. The comma on the keypad of my iPhone simply disappeared. I will say this: I am very troubled. Where did it go? I don’t know; I still have plenty of other punctuation marks—which I really enjoy using. But I want my comma back!!!
There has been a lot written about how a comma can change the meaning of a sentence. A bestselling book titled Eats Shoots and Leaves actually has a comma after the word “Eats” describing a murderer who pauses for a snack before firing at his intended victim. Without the comma it’s a simple description of the dietary habits of a Koala.
So where did my comma go? I went to the store where I purchased my cell phone and asked the sales rep John. “Wow that’s a new one on me” he said. Is it really that important to have a comma on your phone?”
“Yes it’s important. You can’t write a newspaper column without commas (as I’m attempting to do now) at least I don’t think so.”
John was perplexed so he fiddled with the phone and then said:
“I can’t find the comma anywhere but I can get you another couple of periods. Would that make you happy?”
“I don’t want any more periods. I have enough trouble finishing a sentence and anyway….”
“I’m still not sure why this is such a big problem for you but I do admit it is weird Mr. Wolfsie.”
“See you just made my point. You just called me Weird Mr. Wolfsie.”
“No I didn’t. I said this was weird then I paused and then I said Mr. Wolfsie.”
I explained one more time that finding this comma was crucial to being precise and avoiding confusion and that I was not going to be happy without a comma key on my phone.
“When was the last time you used a comma in a message Mr. Wolfsie?”
“Well last week I texted my wife a list of things I wanted her to get at the supermarket: hot dogs beans soda apples lettuce potato chips cookies canned soup.”
“Did you punctuate that sentence correctly?”
“Of course I’m very punctual.”
“That’s a lot of commas for one text. Which plan are you on?
“Wait a second. You’re telling me I get unlimited minutes but not unlimited commas?”
Another tech guy came over to help me. We weren’t really making any progress so the store manager finally stepped in to assist and said to his employee: “It’s your lunch hour why don’t you go eat Joe?”
I don’t know who Joe is but apparently he’s very tasty.
Oh, wow, I just figured out where the comma key is. Apparently, I inadvertently switched to the Canadian keyboard on my smart phone, which does not have a comma in some versions. But wait, now I seem to be missing another punctuation mark. Not the whole thing, thankfully, just half of it.
(You’ll never guess which one.