Somewhere out in the middle of nowhere (location: about two-thirds of the way between Salina and Hays) is a little town called Bunker Hill.
Perhaps you’ve heard of it. It is home to just over 100 people and a really clean convenience store that apparently serves a slightly more intellectual clientele.
When I’m travelling out that direction, I like to stop there and catch up on politics. And I do this by using the restroom.
While most roadside restrooms tend to be on the more tacky side—and by tacky, I literally mean your shoes sticking to the floor—this pit stop just off the Bunker Hill exit on I-70 is anything but.
The restroom is decorated neatly with large gray tiles, chrome trim, black fixtures and a flat-screen TV that seems to always be playing Oprah when I’m visiting. The partitions are completely void of four-letter profanities and good-time numbers.
Instead, neatly etched or inked into the grout of the walls the customers at this convenience store have been engaging in quasi-intelligent political banter that has so far covered the Bush administration, Sarah Palin and President Barack Obama.
My favorite quip, from an obvious conservative right-wing Republican so-and-so, leaned toward poetry: “Is Obama really Osama?”
Keep in mind, this column is in no way meant to critique the effectiveness of the Obama administration or whose three-letter profanity it’s going to kick. However, I was shocked—having read mostly intelligent commentary so far—to read the totally unintelligent (or stupider) response that followed.
Carved into the grout (those easily offended by blatant grammatical errors should look away now) it read, “Your dumb.”
I was flabbergasted. The whole world seemed to briefly halt. Even Oprah stopped talking for a second.
Here was this beautiful restroom wall covered in carefully written intellectual, if not slightly overdramatic, political dialogue, and some liberal left-wing Democrat so-and-so had to come in and blatantly exploit the incorrect usage of “you’re” right at eye level where any young, impressionable child could read it and be grammatically scarred forever.
Now, I’m not claiming to be the definitive fount of knowledge when it comes to grammar. In fact, I even switched my major to something other than English last semester. But whom cares? (Rim shot.)
The point is that it seems as if even bright people, take for example the intelligent folks at the Bunker Hill convenience store who discuss politics in between the tiling, just can’t grasp the simple yet incredibly important differences between homophonous words such as their or there, to or too or two and in this case, your and you’re.
How important are these differences? I’m glad you ask.
Let’s say someone means to write “you’re dumb,” as in “you are dumb,” but instead writes “your dumb.”
This mistake conjures up an instant image in my head of a person presenting another person with dumbness; for example, a waiter approaches a customer with a large tray, gestures towards the plate and says, “Here’s your dumb, sir.”
I can only hope the waiter doesn’t follow up with, “May I suggest a good whine?”