I just saw yet another annoying attempt at a memorial poster on Facebook. It was supposedly created by a guy who is known there as johnconnor1964. This particular poster was of a single set of footprints in the sand. Written over the photo were the following words:
“What I would give to hold your hand,
To leave our footprints in the sand,
Never thought the day would come,
Instead of two prints theirs only one”
It was posted on the Facebook page of a friend who often laments how deeply she misses loved ones who’ve passed away. Apparently her own words were insufficient to express her sadness, so she let Mr. Connor’s little memorial poster do the talking for her. Someday, when I’m not emotionally drained by the tragedy of my March Madness pool nose-diving into the toilet, I’ll write in greater detail about Facebook as a place for memorials.
I don’t mean to come across as an elitist, or to trivialize the sorrow of my Facebook buddy, but Mr. Connor’s literary effort can best be described as a shining example of “crapsmanship”. The thought behind the poem is sweet enough, but the forced composition and misuse of “theirs” instead of “there’s” just destroys what little hope this gem had to begin with. His intent was to bring to mind the emptiness of missing a lost loved one. Instead of fond memories of Uncle Phil, Connor’s poem reminds me of an old standard which used to be found with some regularity on the partitions of pay toilets.
“Here I sit,
Paid my dime,
And only farted”
To be fair, the pay toilet poem is a clever bit of potty humor and John Connor’s creation never really stood a chance in a comparison with such a classic. Also, in the spirit of full disclosure, the dime was replaced with a quarter in later years to reflect the increased costs of dropping a deuce. Literary historians agree that the extra syllable of the updated version took away from the playful rhythm and energy of the original.
Many people think that quality workmanship should only apply to things like custom cabinetry and Italian loafers. This is simply not the case. If I learned nothing else in Mr. Barton’s 7th grade woodshop class, it was the value of doing a job well. Whether you’re building a napkin holder or writing a four line poem, you should strive to rise above mediocrity. Mr. Barton would tell anyone who’d listen that the excuse behind crapsmanship is a simple one – for some people, it’s just too much work to do a job well. Then he’d go on to tell you why excuses are like rear-ends, but we’ll save that pearl of wisdom for another post.
As if crapsmanship in the realm of the written word isn’t bad enough, the damage is compounded when others actually embrace it. People accept a lack of quality, and proudly display it on their Facebook pages like commemorative plates with depictions of Elvis and the twelve disciples enjoying fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches at the last supper. You don’t have to be a biblical scholar to know that Elvis served hush puppies and barbituates at that particular dinner party.
Crapsmanship is slowly becoming the norm. People don’t see a problem with the wall paint smearing up onto the white of the ceiling. If a table is wobbly, a few sugar packets or a pack of matches will steady it; there’s no need to demand four legs of equal length or a level floor to put it on. You’re talking Applebee’s on a Friday happy hour – you should be thrilled to have any table! With crapsmanship the accepted norm, caring about whether or not a sentence contains erroneous homonyms might seem a tad fussy.
Even I will admit that writing a poem with grammatical mistakes isn’t a cardinal sin. Putting that hokey poem over a photo of footprints in the sand may be incredibly trite from a design standpoint, but it’s not going to get you jail time. John Connor put what is presumably his name on this poster. Perhaps he doesn’t care what the grammar police will say. There’s an outside chance that he is actually the John Connor of “The Terminator” fame and realizes that once cyborgs take over, spelling and syntax will lose what little value they still possess.
Perhaps the people who use Connor’s poster to express their feelings are so overwhelmed with melancholy that they don’t even realize that it’s riddled with butchered English. Maybe I’m reading too much into this. Still, I can’t help but think that settling for such a vintage example of crapsmanship will cost users a degree of perceived sincerity of their original sentiment.
I realize that the status of ones Facebook page is transient at best. For chronic status-posters like my friend, there will always be a new update to replace the last one. Facebook statuses are as impermanent as the footprints in the shmaltzy photo on the poster. Regardless of the fleeting nature of Facebook memorial posts, your late Aunt Sophie or Sparky the deceased labradoodle may be watching from the other side. They may not care any more about grammar than you do (especially Sparky, who always cared more about dragging his butt across the Berber than he ever did about English composition).
I just want to go on the record now; I give a hoot about the proper use of the English language to lament the passing of a loved one. If any of you think I’m going to just lie there a-moldering in the grave while you post poorly composed, typo-ridden poems about me, you’ve got another thing coming. I’ll bring a red pen back from the grave and haunt your ass.