Spring, our most challenging season, is upon us, and the glorious swirl of winter is fast fading from memory. Now, confronted with the irrational exuberance of songbirds, the impertinence of yellow daffodils disrupting our peaceful brown gardens and the emergence of leaves shrouding our streets and forests in their garish green hues, we brace ourselves for six long months until our landscape is once again graced with the promise of rejuvenating, purifying, sanctifying snow. If only Minnesota winters weren't so short, summers so long.
"Gadzooks!" I cry. "I'm in a funk!"
I shove aside the pile of papers I'm correcting and say to my wife, "Think I'll go out and sweep the garage."
"Do whatever you need to do, Sweetie," she says. "Just don't make me your only hope for a normal life."
I love it when she pretends she doesn't know I'm a superhero.
Whistling for my trusty sidekick, Robinowitzenschnauser, I pass beneath our back-yard crabapple's riot of pink blossoms and slip into our garage, where I pull the dusty canvas cover from my beloved CommaMobile. There, as beautiful as a well-turned sentence, stands my sleek black steed with its sweeping tail fins, its turbocharged dual-cam jet engines and its laser-powered punctuation-error retinal-scanning display unit. I can't believe it has been nearly eight years since I've gone for a ride in this marvel of grace, elegance and power.
"Jump in, Robinowitzenschnauser!" I say. "We can't stand idly by while the world we love is destroyed by careless punctuators!"
Roaring down our alley at 5 miles per hour, we encounter a gang of neighborhood boys shooting hoops. One of them stands to the side, clutching a mysterious black object and moving his thumbs above it in a suspicious manner. Screeching to a halt, I leap from my CommaMobile and confront him while Robinowitzenschnauser slips stealthily behind.
"Hand it over," I say in my most commanding English major voice.
The boy slowly turns his head and sees Robinowitzenschnauser laying an olfactory-assault/traction-reduction device on the asphalt behind him. Reluctantly he holds out his hand and gives me what turns out to be a cellphone. The other boys pause in their game to watch. One tall, skinny boy hunches forward, his hands shoved into pockets he can barely reach because his pants ride so low on his behind.
On the phone's tiny screen I see the words "hey man wanna go see detroit 67 at penumbra"
"Just as I suspected," I say.
His friends crowd 'round.
Ignoring the lack of uppercase letters and missing question mark, I say, "I suggest you place commas before and after your form of direct address, mark the name of Dominique Morisseau's play with quotation marks and add an apostrophe before '67,' taking care that it curves to the left like this, ' '67,' rather than to the right like a single open quotation mark."
As I return the phone to the bewildered young man, the tall, skinny boy laughs and slaps him on the back.
"Told you so," he says.
Stephen Wilbers offers training seminars in effective business writing. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is www.wilbers.com.