Thursday, February 25, 2010
Right and Wrong
There was a sad story in the Chronicle yesterday about a young man who was tragically hit by a car in downtown SF. The guy was safely in the cross walk when he was struck. In California, the crosswalk is a well documented no-hit zone - once a pedestrian's foot hits the pavement inside one those nattily white striped zones, they are supposed to be safe.
The reporter stated it was simply a case of him "being in the wrong place at the wrong time." Unfortunately, this isn't right. In fact, this might be considered as a reporter using the wrong phrase at the right time.
The pedestrian wasn't in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was in the RIGHT place at the WRONG time. To illustrate this, allow me to use you, a sidewalk, a busy street and the above pictured bus in a couple of examples.
Example #1: Right place/Wrong time
You are walking down the sidewalk. The bus jumps the curb from the busy street and flattens you like a pancake. Sadly, you were in the RIGHT place (the sidewalk) at the WRONG time (Buses are not supposed to be driving on the sidewalk). Sure, you're dead, but you really didn't do anything wrong.
Example #2: Wrong place/Wrong time
You are walking down the middle of the busy street. A bus zooms around the corner and BLAM! In this example you are in the WRONG place (what were you thinking walking down the middle of a busy street?) at the WRONG time. One might argue that the bus was actually "right" as he is supposed to be in the busy street, but since you will soon be pushing up daisies, the outcome was clearly wrong.
Example #3: Right Place/Right time
You are walking down the sidewalk. A bus pulls up beside you on the busy street, the driver throws open the door and hands you a big bag o' money. He smiles, tips his hat and drives away. This is absolutely considered as being in the RIGHT place at the RIGHT time.
Example #4: Wrong Place / Right Time
You are again walking down the middle of the busy street. A bus zooms around the corner, misses you by a fraction of an inch. You lean down, placing hands-to-knees to regain your breath after the too-close-call and find yourself standing right on top of a $100 bill. You pick it up, hop back up on the sidewalk, thank the Powers-That-Be, and recognize that you were in the WRONG place at the RIGHT time.
So, next time you find yourself haphazardly flinging out "wrong place / wrong time" - - take just a moment and think. Is it really an example of Wrong/Wrong? Chances are, it's not. But, if you don't want to take the time to figure it all out, you could always just modify the phrase by adding the word "irregardless." As in, "Irregardless, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time." In this manner, your listener won't care about who was wrong and what was right. Your listener will only be wondering which higher institute of learning actually handed you a diploma. Problem solved.