By Jack Sheedy
Sometimes, one misplaced letter in a word or sentence can lead to confusion, embarrassment, and angst.
Just one mistaken or misdirected squiggly character can lead a person astray, both physically and spiritually.
On a grander, more global scale, one miscommunication can lead to hostilities and utter destruction – heck, the Hundred Year War was started over a jar of pickles.
Equal doses of confusion, embarrassment, and angst can be created by the placement of a space where a letter should be located. Or even a letter where a space should be. The ramifications of such an error can lead to bewilderment, if not a full-scale catastrophe.
Such was the case with our friend Thomas J. McSheey, who incidentally found it of great interest that the difference between a believer in God and a non-believer rested in the strategic placement of the letter “a” as Webster points out with the following definitions:
a theist: one who believes in the existence of God as the creative source of mankind and the world
atheist: one who denies the existence of God
But getting back to the gist of the earlier-mentioned confusion, embarrassment, and angst, this misplacement of letters, or rather, misplacement of the spacing between letters led to a great calamity one year as McSheey searched for a paying job to supplement his mostly non-paying writing projects. While living for a period on Cape Cod, he saw a want ad in the local newspaper:
Lighthouse Keeper Wanted
Year-round position available in picturesque setting.
Experience desired, but not necessary. Ability to work
with little or no supervision a plus. Submit CV and
references to Box XYZ....
Hmmm, he thought, how difficult could it be? So he sent off his resume and three references to Box XYZ... and very soon received a reply. His education being superb, his prior job experience being quite satisfactory, and his references being impeccable he received a letter stating that he was hired, sight unseen, and was told to report for work Monday morning, the contact name and address provided within the letter.
So, Monday morning he reported to the designated location, prepared to begin his new career as a lighthouse keeper. As he had assumed, the location was along the Atlantic coastline, upon a grassy cliff overlooking the white-capped ocean beyond. Certainly picturesque, he thought. Yet, as he looked around he could not locate the lighthouse tower, only a dwelling which he assumed was the keeper’s house.
He knocked upon the front door, and within a handful of seconds it opened, revealing a pleasant-looking older man with a cane. An older woman stood in the hall behind him. McSheey was ushered inside. Outside, the breeze from off the Atlantic caused the beach grass to sway and the beach plum bushes to rustle while inside the dwelling McSheey was learning of the silly mistake which had led to such confusion, embarrassment, and angst.
Apparently the typist at the newspaper had erred. The ad should have read:
Light Housekeeper Wanted.
Though disappointed, McSheey took the job. After all, he needed the paycheck.
Jack Sheedy is the author of Cape Odd and Cape Cod Harvest. Though summer book sales are steady, he keeps a full-time day job. After all, he, too, needs the paycheck.