Copy editors and proofreaders are detail-oriented, meticulous, sometimes fussy people prone to neatness and precision in all things, right? I mean, everyone knows that, right?
Then how to explain me?
I'm a copy editor and proofreader not because of my true nature but in spite of it. I'm a mess. For example, I've never once opened a document containing some old resume or cover letter sent long ago without then discovering some glaring typo I had failed to catch before sending it out to prospective employers. I've lost more keys and even driver licenses than you can shake a bottle of Ritalin at (yes, this got a lot better when I stopped drinking, but not as much better as you'd think). I once went on a job interview not realizing I was wearing one white shoe and one black shoe. (Really. And, yes, I got the job — a waitress gig at a rather gritty oyster bar and pub.)
Then there was yesterday. Yesterday I arrived at the office where I do freelance proofreading and copy editing, walked into the cafeteria (where just a few weeks before I had somehow managed to lose my little insulated lunch bag thingy), opened my already half-opened purse to pay for my coffee, and realized my wallet was gone.
Actually, that's not quite true. The process of definitively "realizing" that something is not in my purse is not something that can be accomplished in a single 10-minute bout of spilling lipsticks and feminine hygiene products all around a cafeteria cash register. To ascertain with any degree of certainty whether something is or is not in my purse is actually five-step process that includes two more frantic rummagings-through, one full dumping-out and one use of a "lifeline," usually in the form of Ted saying, "For the last time, June, I'm looking at the whole pile of junk you poured out of your purse and I don't see your damn (laptop/hoagie/puppy/Toyota Corolla)!"
Still, since my panicked purse-rummaging at the front of a line of hungry co-workers almost counted as a full dumping-out, I was worried. I headed upstairs to alert my editors that I was going to have to drive home to look for it. I got in the elevator. Pressed the button for "5." Rode to about 3 when I heard a clunk, felt a jolt, and realized the elevator had chosen that moment to go on strike.
I pushed "5" and "door open" buttons frantically for a few moments, then I pushed emergency phone button. I heard a little voice.
"Security. Lt. Morgan speaking."
"I'm stuck in the elevator."
"Yes, hello. I'm stuck in the elevator."
"CAN YOU HEAR ME? I'M STUCK IN THE ELEVATOR?"
"I can hardly hear you. You're stuck in the elevator?"
"Yes, I'm stuck in the elevator!"
"Okay, we'll ..."
Clunk. The elevator moved up the final floor or two, then opened the door to the fifth floor smooth as you please.
"Nevermind. It opened."
"NEVERMIND. IT OPENED. I'M OUT."
(sound of my footsteps walking away)
I arrived at my workspace and quickly surveyed the editors and designers who were counting on my help that day.
"I know you have pages for me to proof, but I lost my wallet, so I have to go home and look for it. BUT, my writer's group meets for lunch today. So I'll be gone about an hour then I'll be back for about an hour, then I'll be gone for about two and a half hours, then I'll be back for as long as you need me. Will that work with your deadlines?"
The designer, Joy, was the one I was worried about. She was on the tightest deadline and needed me to proofread some pages she was working on. But she said we had a little time. She wished me luck finding my wallet and blessed my mission.
In the parking lot, I checked my car. No luck. I checked around my car. No luck. I drove home (not very well, I might add), checked the place where I park at home. No luck. Checked nearby trash cans, figuring that if someone found it in the street they might take the cash and chuck the wallet. No luck. I went in the house, checked the kitchen and the bathroom and the dining room and the living room and everywhere my wallet might be. No luck.
Then I looked at the time. I had to cancel two credit cards and two debit cards then make an appointment at the DMV. No way was I going to make it back to the office before I had to leave for lunch.
So I e-mailed Joy to make sure it was okay if I came back even later than I had promised. In my e-mail, I almost — almost — asked her take a peek on and under my desk, just to make sure my wallet wasn't there. But I decided not to bother her with that.
I called the four banks, scheduled the DMV appointment, grabbed my passport for I.D. then went to my lunch meeting. These writers' lunches are usually a two-hour affair, but, with extreme apologies, I split after just 40 minutes, explaining that I had shot a whole morning's work driving across town to find my lost wallet.
I got back to the office ... I looked under the desk ...
... and that's where I saw plain as day my wallet, which contained $32 in cash, two utterly useless canceled credit cards and two equally useless canceled debit cards.
Then I proofread eight laid-out pages, catching typos that three editors before me had missed, and copy edited two stories with equal success and attention.
Copy editing, for me, is not a skill or strength in any traditional sense. It's more like a savant ability. I can't remember whether I brushed my teeth on any given morning, but I can catch "lead" in place of "led" in a story the way Rain Man counts toothpicks on the floor. It's weird.
Weirder yet: Remember that I said that I had been in line to pay for a cup of coffee when I noticed my wallet was gone? Well, I got the coffee. That's because, besides some money I knew I had in my wallet, I also had a $20 in my jeans pocket.
I often have random bills and change crammed into pants pockets from workdays gone by. But that's not why I had backup cash yesterday. That morning, as I was about to walk out the door, I knew I had plenty of money to pay for the lunch. I had had perhaps $30 or $40 in my purse when I bought lunch the day before, so I knew I'd have enough left over. Still, I hesitated. I turned to Ted. "Do you have any extra cash? Like $20?"
I felt a little guilty asking and then cramming his $20 into my pocket. I knew perfectly well I had enough to cover me. But some subconscious impulse had inspired the rare request.
And that's why any requests from the scientific community to study me in a clinical environment — be they from neurologists or psychologists or even parapsychologists — will be enthusiastically granted.