I’m Usually Not One for Shout-Outs

…but I think this warrants an exception.  During my 10 o’clock breaks at work, I’m usually in the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation library on the third floor of the building where I work.  I’ll take a look at The Columbus Dispatch and maybe Newsweek or The Wall Street Journal.  I usually don’t read the books there, because most of them deal with safety issues and technology.  The computer manuals are also woefully obsolete.  I remember borrowing many of them from the library in the mid-’90s, when I bought my first computer.

One of the obsolete books that I did enjoy borrowing, and which I borrowed more than once, was the third edition of Prentice Hall’s Words into Type.  As a onetime typesetter, and as a person who sees the utility and necessity of word processing and computers, while simultaneously loathing them, I found the book fascinating.  Prentice Hall published a guide for proper hyphenation, punctuation, how to set up tables and charts in hot type, covered the merits of Monotype versus Linotype when it came to using many foreign characters (way predating holding down an ALT key and punching in ASCII characters on the numbers pad!), how to determine a word count, etc.

Yesterday, I came in for my daily perusal of The Dispatch and one of the librarians handed me their copy of Words into Type.  The librarians periodically go through their collection and weed out the woefully obsolete books, or books that no one has checked out for years.  They were nice enough to remember my fondness for this (now-) antiquated green volume, and rather than consign it to the Dumpster, were nice enough to give it to me.

Below is the personal reference library of a self-proclaimed “grammar fascista”, which includes Words into Type.  Her blog is one that I only discovered tonight, but will definitely follow.

Words into Type is the green volume between the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language and The Chicago Manual of Style.

She seems to be much more strict in her choice of books she has to have at hand.  If I ever clear this desk enough of clutter for it to be photo-worthy, you’ll see that I have an array of books that have to be within reach.  Many of them are reference books (including the same edition of The Oxford English Dictionary), but I have an album of cassettes (Wisconsin Public Radio’s dramatization of Dracula), The Journals of John Cheever, The Art of Fine Words (a tribute to The Harvard Crimson‘s career linotypist Arthur Hopkins, who retired in 1965 after 36 years of service and died shortly thereafter–the book is inscribed by him), a tattered Doubleday hardcover of The Complete Sherlock Holmes (all four novels, all 56 short stories), Roger Pickenpaugh’s Noble County Vistas (since my mother’s family hails from, and helped to establish, Noble County, Ohio), the two thick trade paperback volumes of The Harper American Literature, and my father’s diploma from Central Catholic High School in Wheeling, W.Va.

There are several volumes of sacred literature and references as well.  I have a New English Bible (an edition I’ve liked since I took a course, “The English Bible,” at Ohio U.), Etz Hayim (Torah and Haftarah, in both Hebrew and English), The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Talmud, and Isaac Asimov’s Guide to the Bible.  The small plastic bottle that contains my gallstone sits atop the slipcase-enclosed copy of The Inman Diary: A Public and Private Confession, a fitting tribute to such a raging, whiny hypochondriac.

Sleet awakened me this morning just before 9.  I looked out and the sky was leaden, but I could see sleet pounding the sidewalks and lawns.  I couldn’t just observe from the safety and warmth of home, however.  I needed to go shopping, so I bundled up, got the two-wheel cart, and ventured out into the weather.  Steph was having some friends over for knitting later in the afternoon, so I started to break up the ice on our walk with the plastic handle of a broken mop.  (We didn’t have a snow shovel, and Kroger was out of salt.)  My neighbor took pity on me and let me borrow the snow shovel that was in the bed of his truck, so I got the job done a lot sooner than it would have taken with just the mop handle.  One of Steph’s friends donated about six pounds of salt when Steph mentioned that I had no luck finding any at Kroger.

My "Cut for the Stone" Anniversary

Last year, I got many people’s hopes up when I said “They’re going to remove my gall–” and I see the disappointment when I finished the word “–bladder.”  I have enough gall for 10 people, so the news that I was going to have a cholecystectomy was anticlimactic.  Exactly a year ago, at this time, I was back home from Grant Hospital, watching Criminal Minds and taking oxycodone.  I awoke in my own bed that morning with a gallbladder–complete with stone.  Twelve hours later, I was home, and the stone was in a small, orange-lidded plastic jar (where it sits right now, right in front of me).  I slept in my own bed that night.

Here is the account of the actual experience, written two days later on my old LiveJournal account.  I’m not celebrating the event with the same intensity as when Samuel Pepys (a hero to all diarists) celebrated being “cut for the stone”.  His procedure, removing stones from his urinary bladder, was in 1657 with no anesthesia and no sterile equipment.  (Pepys ended up sterile because of the operation, but the instruments most definitely were not.)

A year later, I have to look to find the scars.  Had I undergone the procedure about 40 years ago, I would have recovered in the hospital for about a week afterwards, and I would have borne a very visible scar for the rest of my life.

President Lyndon Johnson shows off his gallbladder surgery scar.  One journalist said, “Thank God he didn’t have a hemorrhoidectomy!”  LBJ opened the door for Dan Rather to show cross sections of Reagan’s colon and prostate on the CBS Evening News during the 1980s.

About all I did to celebrate was take off from work 2½ hours early.  It wasn’t to mark the event, but because there was so little to do.  I’ve begun the Books on Tape recording of William Landay’s The Strangler, and I’m on the third disk (of 11), but I couldn’t listen to it while I re-indexed scanned documents (a very hazardous task–the death rate from boredom rivals fatalities in coal mines) because my headphones disappeared sometime during the evening yesterday.  Luckily, no doctors’ reports were in the on-deck circle for me to transcribe.  I took some mini-walks.  The ice storm seems to be behind us (this one, anyway), but there are still many sidewalks that are rough and slippery.  I’m still fall-free so far, but each time I lose my balance, even for a microsecond, I’m less sure I’ll be able to right myself before going down.  Clintonville’s electricity only returned this evening, which means Susie will be back in school for the first time since Monday.

I’ve Become a 21st Century Equivalent of a Scribe, Thanks to the Ice

Two consecutive days of ice storms in Central Ohio has meant two days off from school for Susie.  However, it means that I venture out into the driving rain and the sheets of ice for work.  (The State of Ohio has not cancelled work for weather since the 1978 blizzard.)  And, once I arrive at work, it means skeleton crews and entire sections that resemble ghost towns.

The upside to this was that I learned a new task.  There wasn’t much for me to do in my own section, so I learned how to scan.  The usual scan person wasn’t in–he had enough common sense to hear the ice spraying against his window, look outside and see the glare of ice on the snow, and say “uh-uh.”

I was grateful for a break from transcribing doctors’ reports.  And scanning is a task that I quickly learned to enjoy.  I sat in a pod with a computer and the scanner, a machine that resembles an ink-jet printer where you stack in the paper vertically.  Page through everything to make sure it’s legible and scan-worthy, fill out cover sheets, keep a chart current, put the document in, and push the button.  This scans the document onto a database accessible to the Injured Worker, the employer, and their representatives.  Someone downstream edits these scans, omitting duplicated documents, rotating anything I may have scanned upside down, etc.  (I did that job for several months, so I try to be conscientious whenever I am at the point of origin, as I have been since yesterday.)

Despite the title of this blog, I think this is the first time I’ve come close to a Melville reference.  I was thinking of his short story “Bartleby the Scrivener,” a chronicle of militant passive-aggressiveness.  In the days before Xerox machines, law offices employed scriveners, also known as copyists.  And that was what they did.  The attorney would give them a document, and their job was to copy it word for word, not omitting a single jot or tittle, and they had to make sure every i was dotted and every t crossed.  This was a very secular variation on the lives of cloistered monks in the days before movable type and the printing press.  They produced quite aesthetically pleasing illuminated manuscripts, sheet music, and Bibles, all of it in longhand.

When I began to think about how my job compared to the hero of “Bartleby the Scrivener,” my supervisor came with a thick stack of documents that had to be scanned tout de suite for a hearing later in the day.  I was quite tempted to say, “I would prefer not to.”  I didn’t, because I am finally learning a sliver of self-restraint in my old age, and also because this supervisor is not that well versed in literature, and I think the allusion would have completely flown over his head.  Why waste a good comeback?  (If this went totally past you, click on the above link.)

Since I’m alluding to a literary character, I see from CBS News’ Website that I won’t be reading Ulysses this year.  In addition to today being Groundhog Day, this is also James Joyce’s 129th birthday.  My late father taught English literature at Marietta College, and every year he threatened to assign Ulysses if the groundhog saw his shadow.  I’m not sure if he ever went through with this, but for the first few years since he died in 2000, I followed this tradition by listening to Recorded Books’ excellent audiobook of it–unabridged.  It was the only way I could ever get past the giant capital S on the very first page.

Tuesday morning, I ventured out to work at my usual time, but quickly realized I needed to tread quite lightly. The sidewalks and the alley behind our place were glazed with ice, so I hung onto every fence, garbage can, and telephone pole for dear life with every step I took.  As I glanced down the street, I saw the bus (which I prayed had been running late) breeze past my bus stop.  The sidewalks were so slippery that they demanded I focus on only one thing: getting from one place to another without falling.  I’ve walked while talking on my cell phone, and I’ve even done the comic-strip nerd routine of running into a lamppost or telephone pole because I was reading and not looking where I was going.

None of that yesterday and today.  I managed to make it to my bus stop without falling, although I did slip sideways once or twice, managing to catch myself both times.  I reached down to my waist, because I clip my cell phone to my belt, and found there was no cell phone.  There was no pay phone in sight, and they have become quite scarce all over Columbus, plus all I had on me were bills, no coins.  Once the bus did arrive, and we were heading south toward downtown, my seat-mate on the bus was nice enough to let me borrow his cell phone to call my supervisor to let her know I was en route.  She seemed relieved that she wouldn’t be completely flying solo.

Will Susie have school tomorrow?  Yes and no.  Columbus Public Schools will be open tomorrow, but seven schools are without electricity.  Hers is one of them.  As of now, her school will not be open, but if they restore electricity before morning, it will be.  This is crazy for parents who have to arrange days off from work to stay with their children on snow days.

During the night, during one of my bouts of wakefulness (when I’m awake, but still too exhausted to even contemplate getting out of bed), I saw a blue flash outside.  I am still not sure whether this was thundersnow, or whether a transformer somewhere in the neighborhood blew.  I tend to doubt the latter, because our lights never went out.  (If they had, it wouldn’t have made me late, because I use the alarm on my cell phone to awaken me in the morning.)