On being the letter ‘Q’
Life update: still has no clue how spellcheck works
Methinks I rested on the kwestion of hao spelchek works for a bit 2 long. So long, in fact, that I have seemingly allowed a column to slip me by. I know I said in my first column that “Wenbo’s Walks” would be a biweekly, but as The Tech is now only officially publishing new issues monthly during the summer, my column will follow suit.
Remember how I also said last column that I would never “bellyflop into another column with poor English ever again”? Yeah, me neither. It’s just been too long since I wrote that. Precisely a month ago, in fact. It’d just really be a shame if I didn’t end this column with proper English etiquette either….
Contrary to what one may believe, I plead the case that I’ve actually upheld my promise from the last column, since most of the strings in that first “sentence” would scarcely kwalify as English at all!
I will pause for a brief moment here to comment on the curious absence of the letters “X,” “Z,” “J,” and “Q” from the previous paragraphs. These letters are coincidentally the rarest letters of the English alphabet.
I appreciate them tremendously for hanging in there, even when it seems like the English language itself (or the writer of this column) is actively trying to eksclude them.
I relate most to “Q.” Being in quarantine for so long has often caused me to get all up in my head again. Yet, I continue to remind myself that I, like “Q,” can be strong and independently functioning even without “U” beside me. Hold my (figurative) beer while I start a petition for “quarantine” to be spelled “qarantine” instead.
I also relate to “Q” for other reasons that I shall, in a style captured most elegantly by math textbook authors, leave as an exercise for the reader.
Okay. Ahem. I’ll stop with the Instagram poet-level #deep misspellings and get on with the column.
As it happens to be Commencement, allow me to first extend my congratulations to all the graduating students. You have worked incredibly hard to get here, and although I know that this was not the ceremony you imagined or deserved, I hope that you will reflect fondly upon your time at MIT.
One thing I’ve learned while writing this column is that I’m not great at sticking with its premise. Usually the walk itself is sidelined in favor of angsty commentary. Actually, “angsty” isn’t the proper way to portray my column. I’d say the commentary tends to be more… “socioeconomic.”
Wow, look at me go with those big boy words.
Did you know I once had an AP U.S. History teacher who swore if I wrote “socioeconomic” on the AP essays I would be guaranteed a 5? Anyone wanna take a wild stab at what word appeared in my essays that year?
In short, my column may be purgatory’s (I hesitate to use another word, for this is a family-friendly column) equivalent to those kitchen-friendly “eat, pray, love” signs obtainable at any local Walmart.
You know what? Let’s call this week “the week of self-improvement.”
In order to become better at writing my own column, I shall venture into somewhat more experimental territory. I’ll probably return to my normal format at some point before the next article, but for now, I shall simply enumerate all the things I see and have y’all take a guess as to where I am.
(This is totally not to compensate for the lack of interesting locations I’ve visited since quarantine started.)
Concrete rises to abyssal lows
Rocky to sandy undertows
Auspicious fowls over raggedy ridges
Murky reflections from skyline bridges
I give up. There’s nothing distinctive here, no defining features like the Big Ben, Eiffel Tower, or world’s largest Taco Bell. At least I upheld my promises of returning to my usually-scheduled programming “before the next article”!
Eh, I’ll let you take a guess anyway. Just do your best. I promise this won’t be as life-determining as your weekly horoscope and will be graded on a PE/NE/IE basis.
Just kidding. Since I’m feeling especially benevolent today, I’m just going to give everyone a PE upfront for even trying.
Have I just devised a discount, low-tech version of Geoguessr? It has all the features of the classic game, minus the fun. You get what you pay for, I suppose. Capitalism win?
If you guessed “beach,” “boardwalk,” or anything along those lines, I shall award you an honorable mention. However, we are amidst a global pandemic and I’m decidedly not a resident of Florida, which apparently knows better about reopening than all the health officials in the country.
If you guessed “Reston, Virginia,” however, you’d be completely correct. You know, the place you hear every so often name-dropped in a country song to make the generic lyrics sound more… personal?
I don’t mean to be rude, but “bro country” is the actual worst. If I hear the concepts of a dirt road, pickup truck, ripped jeans, beer, catfish, cornfield, and boots jammed into one song ever again, I will stare passive-aggressively at the radio.
Consider my pacifism as a warning, 98.7 WMZQ. It doesn’t help matters that these songs often also have sexist undertones. Yikes. How does this stuff get radio airplay when genuinely touching or clever country songwriting doesn’t?
To prevent myself from going into a spiraling rant about the popular cash-cow tropes of modern country music, I’ll backtrack a bit to the first occurrence of “Reston.” It’s like… dying in a video game but respawning at the checkpoint.
I should probably also mention that, in true epic gamer fashion, I will respawn and act like nothing has happened. Dare I say I’ll “switch sides like a record changer”? Thank you, Taylor Swift.
Reston happens to be the origins of a type of ebolavirus, according to The Hot Zone, a nonfiction thriller by Richard Preston. “Reston” and “Preston” rhyme. Coincidence? I think not.
Anyways, I first discovered The Hot Zone, oddly enough, at a used book sale in a church basement.
Did my parents monitor what I read as a child? Nope. Did my teachers stop sixth grade me from reading it at school? Absolutely not.
The Hot Zone remains, by the way, the most terrifying book I’ve ever set eyes upon. I can generally tolerate blood, zombies, ghosts, and such, but I’m sorry: viruses are just horrifying, okay?
That’s not to say it’s not a good book, as I’m sure it would be the perfect cup of tea for some of you. I can especially see those who love watching overdramatic TV shows like Tiger King or 90 Day Fiancé enjoying this book.
I distinctly remember the cliffhanger endings for every chapter. These endings were like purgatory’s equivalent of a “To be continued…” banner at the end of a Doctor Who episode: gripping but infuriating due to a lack of accompaniment by an iconic theme song.
Hmm. I actually find cliffhangers quite intriguing. I remember the Goosebumps books I binged as a child had one for almost every volume in the series.
I thought at one point that I was being super original after writing this short story that deliberately ended mid-word. I was almost proud of myself. But then I learned that John Green already did something similar with the fictional author character in The Fault in Our Stars. Bravo.
For added emphasis, I wrote that story long before I learned of the existence of the John Green novel. If I had known, I probably wouldn’t have written it at all, since that author character was not particularly nice in the book and I was a highly impressionable child.
Still, it would be a shame if I did that with this column and left the final sentence incomplete so that my readers and I would have to wait for the next issue to finish the narrative. But I would never do