Oh, the places you'll go without an 'O'

I do not know when my keyboard began to require a firmer dip of pressure for the letter "O." It was the increasing frequency of O-less words cropping up in SpelCheck that finally nudged my awareness of the sticky O to a conscious layer of my mind: the No-O Zone.

In the fix-it-with-a-good-kick tradition of computer repair, I jabbed out rows of O's, lowercase then capital, to loosen the stubborn key. Perhaps my O-finger was strengthening from the exercise, but I persuaded myself that I'd fixed the offending character and returned to my business, writing, which relies on lots of O's.

Within a few days, however, my O was undeniably sluggish, delivering "mats" when I wanted "moats," handing me "cats" when I thought I'd typed "coats." SpelCheck deserted me, as if one correctly spelled word were as good as another, stranding me with "bats" when I needed "boats."

Moreover, my attempts to give the O deliberate oomph turned my "cot" into "coot," my "hop" into "hoop," and I mustn't repeat what it did when I spilled my "pop." In frustration, I snapped the cap off the offending key, swabbed its underpinnings with a Q-Tip, vacuumed every cranny, crevice, chasm, and schism.

Still, the O stuck.

It was time to consult the Pollyanna within me. Surely there were things to be glad about in a world with insolent O's. Many words, I determined, really don't need their O's after all: I lve yu. Nvember. Bn Vyage! My writing took on a license-plate economy, saving inkjet cartridges.

Unfortunately, my O-less prose was more entertaining to me than to puzzled friends and editors, who suggested I call tech-support. But having adopted a scoop of O's obstinacy for myself, I tried first to see what could be written without O'ed words, sort of like trying to make supper when the refrigerator's empty: an exercise in alternative word choice, a test of my resourcefulness (make that "ingenuity").

I learned that I was quite skilled at writing sans that 15th letter in the alphabet, as I'm authenticating in these final few paragraphs. I can, with my trusty thesaurus in hand, still write, assuming I ain't picky regarding grammar, and ain't particular regarding what I'd intended as my subject-matter. Plus, my experiment recreated me as a jaunty, abbreviated "Alli," given that I've necessarily truncated the final syllable in my name.

But just as I was perfecting this adaptive art, delighted with my tenacity in evading that unspeakable letter (and thereby a high-priced keypad replacement), I felt the slightest delay as I pressed the letter W. Surely I was dreaming! But B was next, and Q ensued.

This isn't saying I'm giving up, just that my pickings are slimming. And as letters desert me, my perspective simplifies. At this juncture, I can express my feelings with a letter pair: Grrrrrr.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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