The Suitcase Lady

Literate

May 6, 2008, 9:50 pm

Most of us are blissfully oblivious to the number of words we read each day. This simple fact hit me like an unabridged dictionary when I was in Japan a few years ago.

Not only can I not read Japanese, I can’t even sound out the words in my head. In Europe I can wander around reading all sorts of great words. Of course, I don’t have a clue what most mean.

An oxymoronic sense of calm and frustration descended on me in Japan. I could sit on the train, focus on the scenery and not have to read the plethora of billboards and signs that flew by my window. In this situation, I was illiterate.

On the other hand, it would have been nice if I could have read the signs at the hot springs, “Beware, poisonous fumes are omitted by the volcanic vapors”. Luckily, a Japanese friend took pity on me and supplied that translation.

After Japan, I am cognizant that being a reader doesn’t just provide hours of pleasure with the books, magazines, newspapers and movie subtitles I choose to read. Since I read automatically, loads of non-elective reading happens daily. Much of this reading is inane, superfluous, redundant or all three. Here are a few examples from recent months…

  • Raspberry creme walleye dinner
  • Please remove your ski mask before entering the bank.
  • Normal is a setting on my washing machine.
  • Receive collect calls from jail or prison to your cellular.
  • Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Chicory Stout
  • Do not feed the coyotes.
  • Express your inner beauty with cosmetic surgery.
  • Please request doggie paper dinnerware.

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