My husband and I were discussing a word processing program we use. We both allowed how we really should take the time to recreate our most used style sheets because we’ve been using the programs long enough that we can create a much more stream-lined style than we could when we first bought the program.
He said, kindly, “You’re a power user now.”
No, I disagreed, “I’m not writing my own code yet.”
But, he countered, “The training wheels definitely came off a long time ago.”
Ah, the training wheels.
The summer I learned to type Bob Dylan graduated from high school, Vice-President Richard M. Nixon visited Russia—Remember the kitchen debate? (Bonus points if you can tell me in whose kitchen the debate took place.)—and Hawaii becomes 50th US state.
In other news, in my bedroom, it was me, a rickety card table, a portable Underwood typewriter on which my mother typed her masters’ thesis in 1940, and an instructional manual entitled, The Fundamentals of Typing: a Complete Professional Course for Secretaries and Other Clerical Office Staff.
I thought that manual was terrific. It was printed on thick, slick paper with just the faintest gray tinge to it. The exquisite black-and-white photos showed the correct professional posture for typing and the hands poised delicately over the keyboard like a concert pianist ready to strike the first note. Best of all, it had this flap at the bottom, which folded back and held the book in a slightly-slanted position, so that it could be viewed while typing.
There was the requisite chapter on the importance of typing: it developed hand-eye coordination, precise attention to detail, and was the life-blood of the modern office. There were also chapters on typewriter parts, maintaining a clean work environment, proper typist attire, and how to change those pesky inky ribbons. Learning to type appeared to be a cross between taking religious vows and being entrusted with the most arcane symbols of a secret society.
The most important rule was that you must never, ever, ever look at your fingers while you worked. The fate of the free world depended on looking only at the copy you were transcribing or, should you, in a wild, undisciplined frenzy be creating your own work instead of typing what someone else had written, it was permissible to stare at that little space on the patten, where the letters emerged one-by-one as you pressed the keys.
All right then, eyes on the manual, head up, spine straight, feet firmly on the floor. You may begin.
But boy, when we got to Upward Finger Extensions, Level One—I’m sorry, but even today that sounds rude—things really took off. By mastering qwert and poiuy, all of a sudden I had command of all of the vowels.
The dashing lad had a fad for hash
Of course, I had to wait for Downward Finger Extensions before I could add a period to end the sentence. Periods came along, if I remember correctly about the time Robert Allen Zimmerman mounted the high school stage in Hibbing, Minnesota to receive his diploma.
All these years I’ve been waiting to get this off my chest, so here goes. I never learned to touch type Upward Finger Extensions, Level Two, in other words the place where the numbers live.
To be painfully honest, I peeked. I looked at my fingers when I typed numbers. I still do.
In retrospect it was probably because my child-size hands couldn’t extend fully to the top row yet, or maybe it was because of my slight dyslexia with numbers where I can type 238 and read it as 283 that I didn’t trust myself to fly over the top line without training wheels.
Oh, yeah, and when I went back to school in September and TYPED my first assignment, I got into big trouble. My teacher insisted that my mother must have typed my homework for me because children my age did not know how to type.
It took a trip to the Sister-Principal’s office, where I sat at the secretary’s desk—head up, spine straight, feet dangling in mid-air because my legs weren’t long enough reach the floor—and touch-typed my way through several paragraphs of the religious catechism before the nuns believed that I had taught myself to type over the summer. Fortunately, the catechism had only a couple of number in them, and I slid past those with a quick downward glance at the keyboard.
Quotes for the week:
Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.
~Willa Cather (1893–1947), American author
Sometimes I think my writing sounds like I walked out of the room and left the typewriter running.
~Gene Fowler (1890–1960), American journalist, author, and dramatist.