Great Expectations

As a Timberwolves season-ticket holder, my husband, Terry, has become very familiar with the downtown Minneapolis parking scene. He knows all the slick tricks related to entering and exiting a busy parking garage. Though his routine is strategic with regard to timing and location, the order of things is quite simple: park the car, watch the game, visit the payment machine, exit the ramp. Nothing to it.

Terry’s “receipt”… or is it?

Last Tuesday, when it came time for Terry to visit the payment machine, his request seemed  pretty straightforward. All he wanted was a receipt. After  pushing the appropriate button, the machine made its typical scratching and spitting sounds. All signs indicated that it was hard at work documenting Terry’s comings and goings–that it was generating a perfect summary of his proof of purchase. However, when the apparatus eventually coughed out a “receipt,” it showed no date, no cost, no location. It showed none of the details that one would expect.

Expectations. We have them of each other. We have them of circumstances. And we have them of words. For instance, if the machine had offered a map or a menu  instead, Terry would have had an entirely different expectation, all in thanks to the intricate distinctions we make between words and the items or conditions assigned to them.

In my last post, I relayed the importance of fact checking. Here, I simply encourage my fellow writers to take great care with word choice. After all, our decisions will spur great expectations among our readers.


WRITING PROMPT 1: Make a brief list of basic terms (e.g., apple, book, calendar, diary). What makes each thing distinctive from any other thing in existence? Write your own definitions.

WRITING PROMPT 2: Think about the recent presidential debate. What if it had been called something else (e.g., a presentation, a cookie exchange, a talent show)? Write a scene showing how the event would have played out under this different title.

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