Woe Is Me

The Eight Comma Ninety-Nine Special

He notices that the price listed on the laminated menu for the specialty omelet contains a comma where the decimal point should be. He mentally debates his next move, but knows that it’s inevitable—when the server arrives he points it out. He’s pleased when her surprised smile seems genuine and her thanks for pointing it out don’t smack of sarcasm. She tells him that no one has ever called it to her attention before, and that the boss was planning to update the menu soon anyway, so the input would be very helpful.

A comma’s a small thing, and apparently a comma where a decimal should be —appearing only once on a page filled with many other (correctly printed) prices— seems even more insignificant; seems far more likely to go unnoticed by most people. He’s come to hate the fact that he’s unable to even glance at such a page and not notice the error.

Even worse, he dislikes the fact that he’ll spend most of the morning perseverating on how such things occur, and most of the rest of the morning writing, proofreading, and rewriting a lengthy journal entry about it as if he were some kind of crazy, detail-driven retired editor instead of just some crazy, detail-driven omelet eater taking himself out for breakfast in order to avoid the inevitable housework and the terror engendered by the morning’s televised news.

Ultimately, though, it’s pretty clear which is the most problematic: it’s not the unwashed dishes and unswept floors, or the moron in The White House and the onrushing hurricane; it’s the misused comma on the laminated menu.

3 thoughts on “Woe Is Me

  1. Dunno if it’s comfort or not, but it’s also a way to whittle down the bad things into a manageable size that we can comprehend, if not understand. I just don’t watch the news. If I happen to get a snib of it at some point I just keep moving and pretty soon it goes away. Or makes room for some other idiocy.

  2. Your last sentence says it all! I’m feeling frustrated with the world.
    In my younger days though that comma would have jumped off the page. Many years of being a nurse hurrying to finish her documentation have erased my knowledge of standard punctuation, grammar, etc. I just realized today I didn’t know how to spell hurricane correctly, and I was slightly horrified with myself.

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