Can I get a Little Sign? Let's Communicate

The inspiration for this post came to me yesterday evening after Wil Wheaton tweeted (follow Wil here) that his book "Sunken Treasure" was available (via Lulu) for purchase as a PDF download. Earlier in the week I had listened to his interview during Tweet-a-thon 2009 and was impressed with what he had to say and wanted to read the book. Well, I was pretty quick to download and start reading. I probably downloaded the book within 15 minutes of his first tweet. Yes, I'm a bonafide geek and got the tweet on my iPhone, ordered, processed and downloaded using my iPhone.

Just a little side track here... If you are looking for an interesting book to read (actually, a really great, funny and inspiring one at that), I highly recommend you either download the PDF or buy the paperback You can get it here http://stores.lulu.com/wilwheaton.

Anyway, I was reading his book and got to the story "Remember This" where he talks about an encounter with some female fans at a restaurant. The young ladies starting signing the song "Stand By Me" after one of them recognized Wil from that movie. I laughed out loud imagining them excitedly signing the words to the song with wild and animated hand gestures. A long distant memory came trickling into my consciousness of a time I was riding the bus home from work one hot summer day. All the windows on the bus were cracked open in the hope of getting some fresh air flowing through the bus. The sun was too bright for my eyes, causing me to squint as I made my way to the back of the bus. As I threaded my way down the isle muttering "pardon me, excuse me" to no one in particular, I could hear people talking about their plans for the evening and upcoming weekend.

This was long before the days of the iPod when people would casually engage in idle chit chat or sit and stare out the window in silence, watching the streetscape slowing change on the winding path home. I preferred to sit in the back of the bus and on this jammed packed ride I was standing in the back, hanging on to a pole beside two young ladies seated on the side bench talking to each other using sign language. I could tell that they were arguing very passionately about something by the way they were wildly gesturing with their hands and the emotional and
angry expressions on their faces. I imagined they were arguing over a guy and were desperate to determine who he loved more.....

All these thoughts made me think about what that same ride would be like today, with cell phones, text messaging and iPods and how different it might be. Would the two young ladies be furiously texting each other rather than using sign language? I don't know about you but signing is a form of communication that I don't see much of anymore and I think it is due to the widespread use of text messaging. I kind of miss that third person view of sign language interaction and conversation and the glimpse into a different world of non verbal communication. We live in a world that is already crammed with too much expressionless communication, thanks to text messaging, Facebook, Twitter and all the other forms of text based social communications.

I shook my head to clear my thoughts and got back to reading "Sunken Treasure". I reread the paragraph a couple of times and wondered if what Wil had meant to say was sing instead of sign. This made me really laugh again thinking about this story and if it had happened with today's youth who clutch their phones and furiously text rather than talk. Would Wil have reacted the same way? probably not. It was at this point that I realize he probably meant to say that these star struck fans were singing rather than signing. This is where the ideas, words and inspiration for this post came rushing to my left brain as I started to collect my thoughts and write this post.

A part of my job involves reviewing and editing way too many technical manuals and I see a lot of typos that are created by the auto correct feature embedded in word processing programs. I had to assume that the word "sign" was one of those "thank you technology" errors that we miss from time to time. How is the software suppose to know what we meant to say? I've trained my left-brain to spot these errors in order to prevent someone from misreading the printinged documentation which could lead to costly mistakes. but in Wil's case, it was LOL funny.

I fired off a quick email to Wil mentioning this and hoped he would clarify the whole sign vs sign thing for me. I wasn't holding my breath or anything. I have done this for other technical writers before and never expected a reply. Well, you can imagine my surprise when I opened my inbox to see that the email was not an auto response from Wil but an actual reply. Wil was quick to respond to my query. His answer was short but as I read it, I could imaging the cursing upon realizing that everyone missed such a simply typo. His words made me lmao!.If I was drinking a glass of milk, I would have been spitting it out in laughter. Then I realized, as I read his response, just how much his story and my distant memories resonated with me (signing, not singing). This, and Wil's reaction to the typo gave me the inspiration to blog about it.

I can honestly say that if you enjoy reading something other than technical books and blog posts, order your copy of "Sunken Treasure" today. It just might inspire you to write more and get creative with your posts. Every book you read will expand your thoughts, and, like me, bring back fond memories from times long forgotten. I hope as I continue to writing, my right-brain will take over and I might be an inspiration to someone else.

Who has inspired you today?

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