Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Exclamation! The Big M! Fuck it!

I don't know if you've noticed, but I really enjoy using exclamation marks!

They're happy things. Okay, sometimes they're angry, but what they are is emphatic. They say what they mean and they mean what they say. They're sure of themselves, unlike those wimpy question marks. And periods? Please. Talk about pointless. They don't add anything to a sentence, all they do is stop it.

My parents were always good at making things a game for my sister and I. When we were going to McDonalds, they used to say "Who'll see the Big 'M' first?" and we'd lean forward in our seats to be the first one to spot what, as I learned years later, was not in fact an 'M' at all. The rest of the world refers to it as the Golden Arches. To my family, it was the Big M.

Kids love cabooses. Or should that be cabeese? Like geese? The highest honour a kid in my neighbourhood could hope for was to have your birthday in the caboose that a local McDonalds had set aside for that sort of thing. Forever linking cheap burgers and train culture in my young minds. I remember birthdays there as the single most exciting thing that ever happened to me. My parents assured me that it reeked of piss.

Another game was when we waiting at a train crossing. We seemed to spend a lot of time when I was young in our car waiting for a train to pass. I'm from a big Ottawa Valley family, with relatives spread out all over the Ottawa Valley. I got cousins I've never even heard about, much less met. I guess driving around rural Ontario, you cross a lot of train tracks. Plus, I suppose there was just more train activity back then. Anyway, my sister and I would compete (at our parent's prompting) to see who could spot the train caboose first.

I remember being riveted to that train as it passed, no matter how long it took. Because I knew that sooner or later, that caboose would come trumbling down the track. "I see it! I see it!" We would shout. I still watch a train come by, waiting to see that caboose at the end. Of course, these days there's no more cabooses. They're gone. The train just kinda... ends. And it's a big let down. I guess when it comes to trains, what I'm really looking for is closure.

To me, the exclamation mark is like a caboose. You see that exclamation mark coming at the end and you know that sentence means twice as much as one that just kinda... ends.

I've been told by more than one person, some people I respect very dearly, that the exclamation mark is for people who don't know how to convey the same meaning with the sentence itself. For a while I bought that, living the life of a closeted exclamater. Wistfully lingering on posters for musicals. But then, I thought... fuck it. Very liberating, those two words. And sometimes when I shovel an extra exclamation mark of five into a two line email, I think of them as tiny extended fingers towards those who would try to rule me. They kinda do look like them, too. Watch...


And that's a nice way of looking at the under-rated exclamation mark. Because there's never gonna be any more cabooses in the world. But we're never gonna run out of people who want to tell other people to fuck off without having to roll down their car window.

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