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San Francisco Story


Theresa Allen


Oh long have I been in San Francisco now? 3 years? 4? It seems like a dozen lifetimes. What have I learned? Two things: If I stay in San Francisco for the rest of my life, I will have to get comfortable with solipsism. If I leave San Francisco, I will have to relearn all of my childhood lessons in socialization and the importance of knowing how to relate.

Early one morning, my boss approached me.

"I'm not too good with logistics."

"Logistics? How to implement something?" I was confused.

"Yeah, and like how to use good words in official correspondence."

"I don't know where you're going with this."

"Can you read this memo for me? I have to fire someone and my boss was real unhappy with it."

"Sure, I'll edit it for you."

"Make it sound logistical."


"You know, with all those fancy words. 'Logistical.' I like that word. It sounds so official."

About an hour later, my boss approached me again.

"This looks excellent except for one thing."

"What's that?" I asked. It was a simple memo, roughly two-thirds of a page. It outlined several infractions against company policy committed by an employee who was currently on probation.

"You made a typo. 'Emend.' There's no such word." She handed it back to me.

"Let me see." I took the memo from her and scanned it looking for a mistyped "emend." "I don't see the typo." I concluded handing the page back to her.

"Yes, it's right here." Her right index finger located the one and only occurrence of the word "emend."

                …MSN Encarta Premium - Dictionary - emend
                Emend [i mend} (past e-mend-ed, past participle
                e-mend-ed, present participle e-mend-ing, 3rd
                person present singular e-mends) or e-mend-ate
                [eemen dayt, I men dayt] (past participle
                e-mend-at-ed, present participle e-mend-at-ing
                3rd person present singular e-mend-ates)

                Transitive verb
                Correct text: to make corrections or alterations
                to improve a text
                [15th century. From Latin emendare, literally
                "to take out a fault," from menda "fault, blemish."]

                e-mend-er noun

"Emend is a verb meaning 'to correct.'" I knew what I was talking about, but I could feel my face warm and redden regardless.

"No. You mean 'amend.' There's no such word as 'emend.' I'm good with words. If I weren't, I wouldn't be the boss."

"Good with words? Words like 'logistic'?" That was a low blow. But, earlier, by her own admission, she wasn't "good with logistics," whatever her own, very special, meaning of that word happened to be.

"When was the last time that you got your teeth cleaned?" She wasn't making eye contact with me, but I understood exactly where we were going with this.

"When was the last time that you weighed yourself?" I fired back.

The word must've gotten out that I had dared to challenge the boss on an issue. Although, it appeared that the details of said challenge got lost as they got retranslated from ear to ear. At lunch, the peanut gallery couldn't wait to "size up" my response to the ordeal.

"You know what you need?" One well-meaning co-worker offered. "You should practice feng shui. It will make you easier to get along with. No offense, really."

"That's not the issue." I tried to be patient.

"Maybe wear some makeup, fix up your hair. I think that all you need is a little self-esteem boost."

"No, really. This has to do with the proper use of the proper word."

"But, don't you see? Anyone can use a word."

"But not just anyone can understand the words that they use."

"I can cut your hair for you. You'll feel better."

"Look, Dear Heart, this isn't rocket science. The boss messed up. I called her on it. That's all. Just another case of 'The Emperor's New Clothes.' This has nothing to do with my self image. Understand?"

She emitted some sort of low growl and walked away without another word. I must have offended her.

What was she expecting to hear? "They all got married and lived happily after, amen? Yes, one marvelous dye job and I'm good to go?"

Meanwhile, the days come and go leaving me with nothing other than my own hazy reflection in an imperfect shard of glass. How dull it is to have no other voice but my own to reflect upon. How long can this exile in the City by the Bay possibly last?

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