#15 – “No budy rites gud no mor!”

It’s not the texting languages that people use. IMHO (In my humble opinion) most texting SUX. I expect the problem is you can only get so many characters on those tiny screens. And nobody wants to wear out their thumbs spelling multisyllabic words. It is when they try to write in understandable English, that we realize, as it says in the headline: Nobody writes good anymore. So, who cares? Other than English teachers, editors, writers and other people who care about effective communications, nobody.

But, as I explain to my letter-writing course students, effective communication can earn and save you a great deal of money. One story I tell them is about the time (years ago) I was told I could park anywhere in the big smoke without concern for parking tickets. I had to watch out for tow-away zones but parking tickets would be waived.

It had to do with a simple letter I sent “to whom it may concern” in the metro parking ticket office. The letter explained that Miss Johnson, my teacher in grade three, had told us children that there was a ’12 noon’ and a ’12 midnight’ but there was no such thing as ’12 pm’ or ’12 am.’ I had parked my car on a busy thoroughfare in the city one evening where a sign said there was no parking between 8 am and 12 pm. Since I had no idea when 12 pm occurred, I left my car there. When I returned there was a ticket on the windshield demanding a surprising amount of money.

Friends who were with my wife and I at the time wanted to share in the expense. My wife said that was not necessary, I would look after it with one of my letters. She was right. It was a fun letter to write.

It was short and to the point. It was also friendly. I ignored the amount of the parking ticket and merely discussed what Miss Johnson had taught me and politely requested clarification as to when it happened and what authority had ruled that 12 pm was a specific time of day.

Several days later, I received a telephone call from a gentleman in the parking office. While it was obvious from his accent that he had attended school in another country, he spoke excellent English. He told me that he called because he had enjoyed my letter very much and wanted to tell me that he also had been taught to tell time by a Miss Johnson. His Miss Johnson had also explained patiently to the children in his class about there being a 12 noon or 12 midnight and that 12 o’clock is neither am nor pm.

But, because he was educated outside of Canada, nobody in the city’s sign department would listen to him when he tried to get them to print noon or midnight on the appropriate signs. In disgust, he informed me that whenever I got a parking ticket anywhere in the city, I was to call him and he would cancel the ticket.

Do you think that has not saved me some money?

There is a small addendum to this story. When in the big smoke the other day, I noticed that they are now paying attention to my friend. The incorrect parking signs are being modified. It looked like they are using an adhesive strip. It will take a long time to complete the job. There must be many thousands of signs to change. The signs that said ‘12 pm’ now say ’12:01 am.’

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