We’ve all experienced the moment. Slip of the Pen syndrome (SOP) or Slip of the Keyboard (SOK) those terrible written words we’ve either shared and thought better of after the fact, or, worse, emailed to the wrong person. Unlike the marvelous edit option on Facebook, email has no “take it back” option. Speaking of Facebook—before I learned about the aforementioned edit option —I once posted what I thought was a nice comment about a photo I’d posted of my niece and mother-in-law. I’m pretty sure I meant to write “my beautiful niece and mother-in-law”. Imagine my horror to read these words, “the beautiful asses of my niece and mother-in-law.” Damn auto correct. My niece posted that she was laughing her ass off, and I felt like the biggest ass ever. Yes, it was good for a laugh or two or a couple hundred, before someone showed me how to edit my mistake.
As far as I know I have not sent anything too embarrassing via email, either that or folks are too kind to tell me, but I have definitely been on the receiving end of seeing something about me I was never supposed to see. It is wonderful when you learn about something amazing that someone said or is doing for you, but then you must be careful not to mention you don’t really like coconut cream pie--the very flavor ordered for your surprise party. Not so wonderful is to be ccd on an uncomplimentary email thread about you, the owner of your own inbox. Not even a blind cc. Nope. I saw saw.
What to do? There are options. I’d like to think of these little life snafus as leverage. (Insert hand rubbing and a devious grin). These morsels can be saved to be used later, or responded to as a gottcha. However, since it could happen to anyone, I recommend pondering deeply before taking action.
Have you ever experienced that horrible syndrome called slip of the tongue (SOTT)—when your inner filter malfunctions and words ooze out you wish would have stayed behind your teeth? You know you need to shut up, but the words keep oozing like watery toothpaste. You know, when you snap at your spouse over one issue that suddenly becomes a whole litany of complaints, say hurtful things to your children or parents, or just keep on yapping when it’s clear your audience has grown weary.
My all time worst case of SOTT was when Tip and I were driving behind my folks after spending too much time figuring out a restaurant that would satisfy all of our various appetites. We’d converged on one promising prospect but the planning fell apart, so off we zoomed down Highway 101 for the next target. It had been a long and stressful summer workday for Tip and me. It had been a lazy fun afternoon for my daughter and my folks, who’d suggested meeting us in Olympia for dinner. I may have been a wee bit envious of the lighthearted laughter and animated gesticulations of the inhabitants of the car in front of us. We could clearly see my daughter and my mother laughing.
While the happy cruisers ahead continued their animated conversation, another conversation was happening in our car. I was tired, hungry and cranky. The kind of cranky that even a scrumptious enchilada (if we ever decided on a restaurant) was not likely to appease. I was so cranky I was saying rotten things about my gleeful family. I was going on and on about how ridiculous they were, how slow my dad was driving (I was sure they were going to get rear-ended—though not likely since we were the car behind them, the number two car of the 101 backup) how stupid this whole entire idea was, how no one could ever make up their damn minds, and how it must be tough to have nothing at all to worry about on a lazy sunny day. You get the drift. I was full of sour grapes. Sour grapes containing expletives.
Suddenly the gesticulations became more pronounced. What was my daughter doing? Dammit, she’d unstrapped her seatbelt. I railed on Tip. “What the hell is wrong with them?” My daughter waved her arms wildly. She mouthed words to us. She appeared to be yelling. (Mind you, we were still flying, well limping, behind Grandpa on the freeway, while other cars zoomed around with their own special hand gestures.) All the while, the jumping and laughing and then horrified look of our daughter was raising concern. What the heck was going in that car?
I saw Grandma hand the cell to our daughter, which she held up to the rear window. She pointed at the phone and shook her head. She looked disappointed—very disappointed. I was really swearing by now. “What is wrong with my parents? Are they crazy? They are all crazy! (I’ll admit the words I used were not quite this tame.) Can’t we just flippin go home?”
I’m pretty sure I reciprocated a gesture at a driver who shared his displeasure at the people holding up rush hour traffic. He laid on the horn. I sunk in my seat.
My daughter was nearly jumping now. She pointed to the phone once more. She held it to her ear. She pointed at me. I picked up my cell.
“We can hear you Mom. We can hear everything.”
Grandma nodded her head. Grandpa sped up. We arrived at the restaurant. I buried my embarrassment in chips and salsa. I ordered a BIG margarita. I mumbled some lame apologies. After some painful silence, Tip and my folks laughed and laughed. I had nothing more to say.
It happens, people. It happens. But at least this one wasn’t caught on tape or worse on paper (except now that I’m ratting myself out). That was my ultimate, embarrassing slip of the tongue. My childish ways caught by my elders and younger. Ugh.
There are also beautiful slips of the tongue, when the words you've bottled for years finally spill and are graciously absorbed. And there are wonderful slips of the pen too—when writing provides instant relief or comfort. When the pen glides across paper with no forethought and the words that appear hold a magical journey into imagination, a solution to a problem, a nugget so special you simply must share.
My slips of the pen come in fits and starts. Sometimes I have so many words they trip all over each other. Sometimes I wish for words but it seems all the inkwells are empty. My keyboard provides no guidance, and even the trusty thesaurus is no use because I’ve offered no words to find another.
But sometimes words flow. And when they do I can —Write it. Read it. Shout it. Scream it. And later, reflect on the words that resulted from a slip of the pen.