Friday, March 31, 2017

A break in Florida with my people

The occasional vacating of your life, breaking away from routine, is a health benefit I think we can all get behind. It's even better when you spend your time away from normalcy with "your people." People who get you. People who share your interests. People you've known for a long, long time.

I'm fresh off a week spent with three distinct groups of people that others may not have enjoyed spending time with, but who made the trip extra special for me.

Group 1: Editors

Despite our reputation for being rule-abiding sticklers, boring introverts, and proud grammar Nazis, editors are actually a pretty fun group of people. (And let's not refer to us as grammar Nazis anymore—we've decided to use "grammando" instead. Come on, help me get this trending.)

ACES is a special conference. It's a place where I can get a "word nerd" pin and everyone around me covets it. Finding typos in PowerPoint presentations is a competition rather than something that just makes you roll your eyes (yes, typos wriggle their way even into editors' presentations). It's the best opportunity I have all year to commiserate with, learn from, and buddy up with people who understand what it's like to have a career dedicated to words. Half the world thinks we can be replaced with software, but we know there's more to our jobs than properly punctuating sentences. Editing is much more of an art than it is a science, and it involves far more people management than most people realize. But my people? They get it.

While last year editors were abuzz with the news that AP would lowercase "internet," this year was all about the partial acceptance of the singular "they" (the "they" that refers to someone who wishes to remain anonymous or who prefers "they" as their personal pronoun). Despite being in use for hundreds of years—even Shakespeare used the singular they!—and despite most editors being completely on board with adopting it fully, so many people are still clinging to the "it's not grammatically correct!" argument. But the fact is, language changes—even *gasp* the meaning of words—and nothing else has come anywhere close to filling the generic pronoun need. Most editors are going to keep fighting for singular they's complete acceptance, even if it means we'll have to pass the torch on to the next generation of editors.

This is from one of my favorite sessions—Kory Stamper's reading of her new book Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries. Kory makes my people look cool. (I'm in this picture, FYI. And I do not look cool.)

Chicago also finally took out the hyphen in email, but I guess that's not quite as exciting because that's what we've all been doing anyway. The announcement still got a pretty raucous cheer, though.

But lest you think editing conferences are full of happy friends who agree on everything, certain debates can get dicey. Particularly those between AP and Chicago frenemies.

The mug that inspired this picture says "4 Copy Editors Killed in Ongoing AP Style, Chicago Manual Gang Violence." Sorry, Nick, I'm pretty sure I'm winning. My Chicago sunglasses give me superpowers. And Chicago is better. Obviously.

And if you get to check out a bookstore and walk along a lovely beach with another one of your people, you count yourself very fortunate.

I was sad to see the first part of my trip end, but I consoled myself with the knowledge that my next "group" of people was on their way to pick me up.

Group 2: Mom and Dad

When I casually mentioned that I was going to make a stop at Harry Potter World while I was in Florida, my parents pulled out their phones and immediately started working out how they could meet me there. Before I could really process what was happening, we had a mini vacation planned, just the three of us.

Not everyone would be thrilled to hang out with their parents at an amusement park, but I've always liked my parents more than is really normal. And I think I'm old enough now that I don't have to be embarrassed by that anymore. Besides, my dad is super handy to have around for these types of things.

Group 3: Potterheads

My parents dropping everything to go to Harry Potter World for the third time should give you a little insight into why I am the way that I am. I wanted to fully immerse myself in the Harry Potter experience while I was at Universal, and my parents—and the bajillion other fans crammed into that little park—were 100% supportive of that. Of all the fandoms to be a part of, Harry Potter is one of the best.

Like every other witch and wizard, we started our journey to Hogwarts in London.

We tried to pay Sirius Black a visit, but for some reason he was out. 😭😭😭

So we proceeded to Diagon Alley. Walking through that busted brick wall is seriously like stepping into the movie. You're walking innocently along in the mundane Muggle world, and then BAM. You're in the wizarding world.

I was too intimidated by the goblins to ask for a withdrawal, but the ride was cool! I wish we had been able to go on it more than once, but it was broken down the second and third time we went back. I suspect nargles were involved.

After buying Sirius Black's wand (I now own seven wands—eight if you count my remote control wand), I was morally obligated to add something from  Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes to my ever-growing Harry Potter collection. I'm sure that U-No-Poo will come in handy at work. (Don't worry, guys—they're basically just M&M's.)

Then we had lunch at the Leaky Cauldron. I love saying that. I gave the cold Butterbeer a try, and it was tasty. But I still like the frozen Butterbeer better. Just don't drink them both in one day—you might get drunk from sugar.

The Hogwarts Express also feels like the real deal. Even standing in line at King's Cross Station is cool.

However, I was forced to take a brief break from being a wizard to figure out how to best word this sign so as to not confuse its American audience. I don't really know how to turn off my "edit" mode.

ANYWAY, back to Hogwarts. Dumbledore was nice enough to let me visit again.

This is the only part of the park where you remember you're not actually in Hogsmeade. The snow on the rooftops certainly looks cozy, but the effect isn't powerful enough to counteract the Florida heat.

I also tried to sneak into the Ministry of Magic,

but that was pushing my luck. Even Dumbledore couldn't persuade them to let me in.

And with that, the fantasy ended. Soon after, we left Harry's world behind.

The good feeling of being amongst my type of people disappeared the next morning when I was seated next to a lady with a cat on our five-hour flight home. But I guess I had it coming—the week leading up to that moment was perfect, so karma had to even things out a bit. (Luckily, my allergy shots are doing their job; otherwise, I would have been a sneezy mess of itchy misery the whole time.)

So, this year's word nerd vacation was a soaring success. Can't wait to see how next year turns out.