Work of Art - Got a Magic Marker?

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By Art Trujillo

Several months back, around the time Highlands University developed its own license plate, I jumped in line for one of the lower numbers.

Sharon Caballero, in charge of selling the new tags, called me when someone cancelled an order, and I was able to draw HU00011. A second plate, HU00211, which fits my second car, I got directly from the local motor vehicle department, unaware that Highlands had a stash of the lower-numbered plates.

Not bad! The lower number makes me feel oh so important; the higher number, 211, reminds me I ought to weigh a lot less than that.

Language Cop that I am, I immediately noticed the “Go Cowboys” message, in white lettering at the top of the plate: it lacked a comma. Normally, a name (Cowboys) that follows a command (go), requires a comma between the words.

I asked Sean Weaver, who designed the plate and who certainly knows how to put commas in the right, places. He explained that somehow a comma just wouldn’t look right and that — yes — he knows how to punctuate.

I threatened to add the comma myself.

I sent out a request for some Wite-Out, that white pasty thing that secretaries use to apply on paper to cover up errors — in the pre-computer days. I added that I doubted that white liquid even existed anymore.

Then I got a slew of e-mails from virtually the entire secretarial brigade at Highlands, offering me some Wite-Out. Weaver even thought of photographing me as I painted the punctuation mark on my plates.

Well, it’s strange how what goes around comes around. In my home e-mail this week was a message that criticized us Optic writing experts over an error in our own backyard — literally. The backyard the writer refers to is the tiny newsroom parking area, with a sign warning others not to park there.

The sign contains the message: “Unauthorized vehicles will be towed at owners expense.” That message slays me. Has there ever been a message that reads, “Unauthorized vehicles will be towed at our expense”? Sure, park there illegally, and if we need to have your car towed, we’ll cover the expenses for you.

But somewhere in the womb of time, even before I began my stint at the Optic, there existed that no-parking sign in our private lot. And would you believe an apostrophe was missing from the sign? Missing as in it never was there.

The e-mail chided me over something biblical, in which we can see a cinder in someone else’s eye but we can’t see the log in our own. Why do we go around town, spotting typos while being guilty ourselves?

But to be fair (to us language mavens), former managing editor David Giuliani and I had fixed the errant apostrophe, even after we argued over whether it should read “at owner’s expense” or “at owners’ expense.”

I won that round, inasmuch as the sign referred to vehicles (plural). But Mother Nature, in the form of the sparse drops of rain and flakes of snow that hit the sign, erased the punctuation, and that now makes us appear like a bunch of illerates.

Does anyone in the Highlands secretarial pool have an indelible black Magic Marker that we can borrow to make things right?

• • •

We recently ran a photo and a short article about a group of Minnesota youngsters who cleaned up our esteemed River Walk. I commend those University of Minnesota students for their zeal in performing such a civic-minded task during their spring break.

There can be few better life experiences than being able to travel — in this case a great distance — to places like New Mexico to perform a public service. Thanks to the spirited group.

But yet, what kind of message is the Meadow City sending when crews need to clean up our trash? I have no doubt that the Minnesota crew didn’t make the trip west merely to manicure our river walk. They were headed this direction anyway and added the cleanup as one more activity.

Had they not arrived, would the trashy conditions near the bridge have remained? It would have been great if Las Vegans had cleaned up the debris, the beer and pop cans, the fast-food wrappers and the miniature whiskey bottles before our guests arrived.

Sure, our residents are appreciative of the visitors’ efforts, but it simply seems as if we’ve gone on welfare and expect someone else to perform the cleanup duties.

• • •

Remember Eddie Flores, the man who lost his direction in the Trementina area, walked away from his car and spent almost a week lost?

There might have been some skepticism as to the report Eddie gave officials when explaining how long he’d been in the wilds. According to police, Eddie said he’d been long “for two days.”

I checked with Eddie to ask what he really had said, and without hesitation, he said, “I told them I was there ‘from Tuesday to Tuesday.’” It’s a simple misunderstanding; when the body is famished, “two days” is a lot more tolerable than “Tuesday to Tuesday.”

Art Trujillo is a copy editor at the Optic and a contributing member of the newspaper’s Editorial Board. He may be reached by calling 425-6796 or by e-mail to artbt@rezio.net or atrujillo@lasvegasoptic.com.