Beware! Typos can lead you astray. (Or why all roads don’t lead to Rome.)

There’s no doubt that seemingly small typos can have a big effect. This month, for example, brought disturbing news of a Philippines journalist sent to gaol after correction of a typo in an article originally published in 2012 saw her convicted of cyberlibel. But typos don’t always have to appear in print to be damaging. There’s plenty of other ways they can cause havoc, too.

Take the relatively recent case of Luigi Rimonti, a spry 81-year-old Italian who for many years has lived in the UK. Looking sharp and loving life, fit and healthy Luigi thought nothing of regularly driving back and forth to his home town of Rome. About to embark on yet another jaunt in 2018, it was Luigi’s sons who insisted he install a satnav for added safety. To humour them, Luigi agreed. And that’s when it all started to go spectacularly wrong.

Technology not being his strong point, Luigi had trouble with the satnav right after the car ferry arrived in Amsterdam. Luckily, a friendly motorist in a petrol station was happy to give him a hand. With just three quick taps, Luigi’s destination was entered in the recalcitrant device and the friendly saviour waved Luigi safely on his way south.

Although not much of the route seemed familiar, Luigi nevertheless enjoyed the scenery. But just as he was about to drive into a hotel for an overnight stay, the satnav surprised Luigi by announcing his destination was very near. What? Something was clearly wrong – Rome was definitely a long way off yet. Having noticed a road sign a just few metres back, Luigi decided to check. Pulling up on a slight slope, he stopped the car and got out.

Now, it’s well known that failing to engage a handbrake properly means anything can happen. And happen it did. As the car rolled quickly backwards, the open driver’s door struck Luigi, knocking him over and dragging him along. But whilst the road sign effectively impeded further progress of the runaway vehicle, Luigi tumbled on, stopping just as his car crumpled into the pole, totally immobilising it. Badly hurt and unable to get up, a shaken Luigi later reported he thought he’d died. But as he lay in the middle of the thoroughfare, he did manage to read the road sign at last. It said, ‘Rom’.

Rom is a tiny town in the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania region. In Germany.

Almost a week’s recuperation in Rom wasn’t quite what Luigi had in mind when he’d so optimistically set off to visit his beloved birthplace. Still, had it not been for an innocent typo by a well-meaning stranger, Luigi might not have seen all the delights that a very small village some 600 miles from the Italian border had to offer. Which just goes to prove that every cloud does indeed have a silver lining.

And as for the satnav? Confirmation hasn’t been possible, but reliable sources say it’s believed to now permanently reside somewhere in Germany.

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