You’ve heard a lot from me about editing your work and eliminating as many errors as possible.
Yesterday, we experienced a dramatic example of how serious the simple transposition of two numbers can be.
I was in the kitchen making a sandwich for Jack, and our helper Betsy was nearby preparing Jack’s medications. Suddenly we heard Jack yelling, sounding frightened. He has fallen several times, twice in the last week, so we hurried into the den, fully expecting him to be helpless on the floor, even hurt.
Instead he pointed toward the sliding glass door. There were two young men on our patio. We thought our backyard was completely secure, so we were shocked to see strangers looking into our den,
I opened the door and asked what they wanted. They were obviously as shocked as we were and both started talking at once.
“We’re here to look at the place to rent advertised on Craig’s List.” They went on to say they were told to come through the side gate into the backyard, then come through the open back door into the empty house. They realized they were in the wrong place as soon as they saw people inside.
They hurried away and through the side gate. Betsy went out the front door to make sure the men left. Their pickup truck was parked in the driveway, and they stood by the truck to use a cell phone to call the person who had placed the ad. It turned out that the address was incorrect in the ad. The house for rent was at 630; we live at 603. Betsy watched the men drive down the street and go through the side gate of the house with a “For Rent” sign on the front lawn.
Then Betsy and I put a chain and new padlock on the side gate, glad that at least this experience showed us that gate wasn’t secure.
More careful editing could have prevented a frightening and potentially dangerous situation. We thought someone meant to do us harm, and the intruders feared we would overreact to their shocking appearance at our backdoor. Fortunately, the incident ended with no significant repercussions. But it demonstrates that a seemingly insignificant mistake can have serious consequences.