“Excuse me,” the elderly woman sitting to my right said, “how do I get to the Internet?”
I pointed out the Internet Explorer Icon on her monitor and told her to double click on it. After a moment, during which she looked at me as if I had just said “Yeghzzzme ooolblah domadna krep,” I explained what I meant by ‘double click.’ She followed my directions, and when IE opened up, I proclaimed her to be on the Internet, and looked back to what I was working on.
“The Internet,” she said, looking at the empty browser window, “is a lot more boring than I was lead to believe...”
“No, Mom, I don’t think that’s right. It looks wrong.”
“It’s a possessive. It’s right.”
“But not every possessive has an apostrophe!”
“Yes, they do.”
I looked across the study table I had moved to after helping the little old lady navigate from a blank browser window to actual content; I’d been seated there for 5 minutes tops when they asked if they could share the table with me. It’s Saturday, the library was packed…I said yes. And I didn’t make burping and farting noises, because they asked nicely before invaded my public work space.
Mom was helping Junior Miss with her 6th grade English homework.
Junior Miss saw me looking and asked if I knew anything about English. A little, I admitted. Mom wanted to know how much. It was part of my major, I told her (politely, I think.)
“You majored in English? What can you actually do with that besides teach?”
Junior Miss grinned. And then asked, “Do possessives ALWAYS have contractions?”
I asked for an example.
“In this sentence, ‘the dog scratched its head,’ is there an apostrophe between it and the ‘s’?”
No, I said. When the word ‘it’ is in play, you use an apostrophe when it’s a contraction. Suppose the dog was looking at a ball. The ball is ‘it.’ The dog knows where it is. The sentence might be ‘the dog knows where it’s at.’
(I did not point out I had just dangled my participle.)
(That might have sounded obscene.)
Wisely, Junior Miss did not sneer “I told you so” to her mother. And Mom was not pissed off. Mom did, however, ask me to look at the rest of the worksheet.
Twenty sentences requiring punctuation, completed with Mom’s help.
Eighteen of them were incorrect. To be fair, Mom has not taken an English class since her sophomore year of high school, which was, she assured me, one hundred and fifty years ago.
For the record, I should never be an English teacher. Thankfully I was not asked the difference between lie and lay, nor the whole who/whom thing.
Hours in the library: 2
Work accomplished: 0
There's always tomorow...