on luck, ladders and letters

I’m lucky, I’m lucky
I can walk under ladders
— Joan Armatrading

I’m not a lucky person.

That’s fact, pure and simple, no muss, no fuss.

However, there’s one thing that I’ve got a knack for, something that some might view as luck: having letters to the editor published.

I’ve not entirely figured out why that is. Let me rephrase. I do have a sense of why during life in Japan and within the context of its culture, mores and values. There I wrote letters to the editor of the English dailies under the umbrella of Japanese publications. Whether the letters were translated for publication in the Japanese parents I couldn’t say, never checked.

In Japan, I could almost bank on my letters being published. In the United States, it’s hit and miss. I’ve written letters that I thought were worthy of and didn’t receive ink.

I won’t hesitate to admit that I’ve been left baffled a few times. I express myself reasonably well. My letters aren’t rife with grammatical errors, misspellings, twisted syntax, incoherence, ridiculous leaps in logic or irrational outbursts (all of which, incidentally, characterize a vast portion of letters to the editor — and I would know, I used to “edit” them!). Only in America does bad writing prevail over skilled writing … only in America …

Then … it’s also gone the other direction, when I’ve been taken by surprise that a letter made the pages.

Take a recent letter to the newspaper. Regular readers may recall my November post on the misspelled last name of a police officer on a memorial unveiled on the one-year anniversary of the fatal shootings of the Lakewood four officers by Maurice Clemmons (a story that made national news).

I’d noticed the misspelling and immediately sprung into various actions toward its rectification, including dashing off a letter to the editor (and at the very cafe where the four had been murdered).

An online check or two revealed no publication so I didn’t give it much thought.

Until an old college friend resurfaced by email a month later. Wrote he, “I even googled you and only came up with a letter to the editor of your local paper.”

Reallly?!? Sure enough, they must’ve published it after I’d checked! And I was very pleased by that because the situation mattered. A misspelled name of a police officer murdered in the line of duty deserves to be brought into the light and awareness. And it deserves to be corrected.

Of course I had a chuckle over commenters who wrote that they’d found my heartful response to the error “much ado about nothing.” It ain’t the first time I’ve been terribly misunderstood and it certainly won’t be the last. All I can say is don’t shoot the messenger.

That said, I got to contemplating my so-called luck with letters to the editor a couple days ago when my favorite talk-show radio host invited listeners to email comments on “the wussification of Washington state” (in connection to school closures on the threat of snow).

So I did, never expecting, in the tsunami of responses, my comment to make it on air. But it did! With my first name!

Lucky? No, I’m not lucky.

However, I do have things of value to say that deserve to be heard or read. Ultimately, I reckon that my “luck” amounts to the higher powers that be having my back and seeing to it that that happens.

As for walking under ladders, like Joan, can do. No luck involved.


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