I’m a speed reader. Have been since I was a teen. My mother worked for the continuing education department of a university and they were offering a class on speed reading and needed one more person to fill out the class. I became that one person.
The class only met for an hour or two for a few weeks, but when the goal of a class is speed, you don’t need to meet for long. The instructor said to make your eyes go across the lines of words as fast as you could and not be concerned about what the words meant.
I read “Animal Farm” in 10 minutes. Cover to cover. The instructor asked what the book was about. I said I didn’t know, but if I had to guess I’d say it was about animals on a farm.
He looked displeased.
I’ve been speed reading ever since. I can’t stop and I can’t slow down. Today, for example, I plan on reading Churchill’s four-volume “History of the English Speaking Peoples.” Over lunch. I hope it’s more memorable than “Animal Farm.”
As a result of all this speed-reading, I often experience a delay between what I think I read and what something actually says.
The other day I passed by a mall with a large sign that said “Auto Theft Sale.” I thought how efficient of auto thieves to bypass the chop shops and simply sell all the stolen cars in a big tent at the mall. A half-mile later it dawned on me that the sign had said “Auto Tent Sale.”
Last week I read a recipe that called for Monster cheese. I’d never heard of Monster cheese before. I kept reading and, in the back of my mind, I was thinking Monster cheese must be a really, really large block of cheese. Probably with green flecks. A second reading revealed it was Muenster cheese. If Muenster cheese has green flecks, it probably is monster cheese.
That faux pas falls in line with a local restaurant we frequently pass with the big red sign that says “Human Cuisine.” No wonder there are never many cars in the lot. Actually, it says “Hunan Cuisine.”
Every time I drive through a construction zone I gasp. The sign says, “Hit a Worker $10,000.” It reads like they’re offering a reward. Of course, it’s not an enticement; it’s just that my eyes rarely take in the last line that says “Fine.” It’s a $10,000 fine. Someone really needs to rephrase that one.
A department store chain keeps running a promo that says “FIND YOUR YES.” Inevitably, it registers with me as “FIND YOUR EYES.” I always note that my eyes are still in my head. I don’t know where else they would be, but the lettering is so commanding I feel it necessary to double check.
Speed reading has bitten me on the backside more than once. Especially as a writer. Just aks any of my editosr.