In the old days, which is to say when I still had red hair, it was customary to use the code ‘-30-‘ to signify ‘end of message.’ It was used by the newspaper industry and in some telegraphy codes. The origin of this bit of shorthand has become clouded as the Internet and wiki-compilations encourage anyone with an opinion to sound authoritative. Ah, well… A discussion for another time, perhaps.
As a young writer (and I do mean young, as in grade school) I was intrigued by this particular custom. Couldn’t tell you why but on many of my early school papers and especially my personal essays I used the ‘-30-‘ mark to signify that a piece was finished. And yes, it annoyed some but not all of my teachers.
Why not just write ‘The End’ as did everyone else in those days?
I’ve thought about this quite a bit and especially now, when I’m approaching completion of the final pre-submission edit of my current book, The Patent Desk. For this book, it is particularly appropriate not to say The End. To understand why, you’ll have to read it.
‘-30-‘ seems to me a gentler sign-off. Not so much farewell as see you later. End of message but not the close out of our conversation together.
Thirty – the number, not the copy editor’s shorthand – is in my mind for a wholly different reason today. Exactly thirty years ago as I type this, I was leaving a hotel room with my friend and best man Mark, on the way to the Asian Gardens for my wedding. Mark’s sister, Mary was at our house with her sisters and Mark’s wife (also one of my buddies from our musical theatre days) finishing up her own preparations.
Thirty years ago today Mary and I embarked on our life and lives together. And looking back from this vantage point, I can assure you it is not The End.
The conversation will continue, perhaps in new dialects as I transition from my current career to life as a writer and Mary plans (yes, she is in charge) our life as a couple after raising and educating offspring.
Perhaps in the sense of the contrast between our family-creation years as opposed to our denouement together, ‘-30-‘ is the appropriate symbol of our completion of the first thirty.
And, maybe I’m just stalling with odd thoughts while I try to figure out how to fix that one pivotal chapter in the book.
You be the judge.