If you are among the millions out there who noticed that I missed two weekly posts this month, and who missed those two weekly posts, I congratulate you on your powers of observation and your impeccable taste. If you are not among the millions, I can only commiserate with you. It must be hard to be lacking in both powers of observation and impeccable taste. What’s more, I feel sorry for you because you are not like me: I missed two weekly posts but you did not. But cheer up. You’re not alone. There are billions out there like you.
I searched for images of our not-so-lonely planet’s teeming billions, to show you that you are not alone. I also wanted to keep you happy. I’m not naïve, reader. I know you like my images, and some of you like them more than my text. Well, I must inform you that instead of finding moving or humorous images to keep you happy, I only found millions of typos to keep me happy.
I was exaggerating, of course. I didn’t find millions of typos. I only found these few, and maybe ten or twenty more. But I’m sure there are many millions in print, on the internet and off it. Why, my own book had some eight or nine. Apart from being mortifying, they were ironic because my book’s back cover says something about my having been a proufreeder. (It will be the ultimate irony if their our sum tie pose hear. Unintentional ones, I mean.)
The most mortifying of my typos was an incorrect end-of-line break that could have been avoided had Word been smart enough to know I meant “biolog-ical,” not “biology-ical,” and had I been smart enough to know how to turn off that feature. But I was not smart enough. Don’t be shocked, reader. If you’ve been reading the posts I churn out for your reading pleasure week after week (barring a couple weeks here and there), you will know what grade I’m mentally in. Turning off features in Word is for Indian techies, those teeming millions in whose august company I will never feature, in August or in any other month.
Most of the typos I came across as a proofreader at Warner Bros. weren’t funny, but I remember these because they were.
- Fathering Forces. The copy had gathering, but given the licentious lifestyle of the heroes in the movie, fathering would have been right too.
- Until then, ______ was the longest loving member of the Senate. Obviously the copy had said living. Even if the writer knew something about the senator’s love life, they wouldn’t have told.
- Standing on the shoulder of Stanley Kubrick. If you have as good an imagination as Stanley Kubrick, you’ll be able to picture what it would be like to stand on his shoulder. Especially because he’s been dead since 1999.
And now, let me tell you about the not-so-teeming millions. These are a million dollars, which my wallet has yet to teem with. (Please don’t stop reading. I have something very important to say on this.)
Some days ago I was in conversation with a man who visits India regularly in connection with some community development projects he raises funds for. At one point he stopped mid-sentence to ask, “What would you do if you were given a million dollars?”
Someone asked me this question when I first came to the US, and at the time my hopes rose. The speaker was an elderly woman, and I thought she was about to bequeath her estate to me. I’d heard that anything was possible in America, and I felt it was about to happen to me. So convinced was I that I almost gave her the answers I thought might win her (“Save the manta rays” being at the top of the list, this being Hawaii). I soon discovered that she had no intention of bequeathing anything to me. When I finished speaking, she began telling me what she would do if given a million, and that’s when I discovered she had nothing to bequeath to anyone.
It took another five or six people to ask me that question before I figured out that when someone asks that, they are only trying to eavesdrop on your thoughts. Because (if you answer honestly), what you would do if you were given a million dollars shows where your greatest passions and interests lie.
Note: Change that to a billion when speaking to a millionaire. And if you’re speaking to a billionaire, don’t ask them what they would do. Ask them what they are doing.
When I first came to the US, I also heard about a study that had been done a decade or so before among the Builders (people who had lived through both world wars), in which they had been asked this question: “If you had to live your live over, what would you do differently?”
This is another of those “million dollar” questions of the kind I was asked recently. It’s different in the sense that you could be given a million dollars whereas you cannot get to live your life over, but the Builders have not been called the greatest generation for nothing. They gamely responded, and these are the top three answers:
- I would watch more sunsets.
- I would spend more time with those I love.
- I would invest in things that will outlive my lifetime.
When my conversation with the man who regularly visits India began, I hadn’t been expecting the “million dollar” question, and I wasn’t thinking about the Builders when I replied, but I knew what he was getting at and I named the top three items on my wishlist. I responded honestly, but I’m not revealing my answer. If you’ve been eavesdropping on my Collected Thoughts for any length of time, you’ll be able to figure it out for yourself. I will say this, though: I believe my three points cover the three points on the Builders’ list. The first two things I’d do if someone gave me a million dollars will be an investment into something that outlives my lifetime, and the third will allow me to watch more sunsets and spend more time with those I love.
So here’s the very important thing I have to say to you: If you have a mill bill to spare, please pass the buck to me.