Monday, July 27, 2009

Confessions Of A Teenage Typer

I cheated. I confess. I cheated in typing class in high school. I was thinking about this the other day when I was doing some free writing, morning pages a la The Artists Way and I realized I was not looking at the keyboard as I had back then but instead at the framed watercolor print of Aspen Mountain that hangs over my desk. I realized that while I had cheated in high school, I had somehow along the way managed to learn where each letter sits on a keyboard and can indeed type without looking.

I didn’t think it was possible for me to master this skill back then. I took the class only because I had to. It was a requirement. You needed it to graduate.

The classroom resembled one of those old office typing pools you only see now in black and white movies, row after row of desks, each with a big clunky manual Smith Corona sitting on it. Electric typewriters, while in use at the time, had not made it into this NYC public school class. At the front of the room, above the blackboard a replica of the keyboard hung. We were instructed to keep our eyes there and not look down. This was going to help us learn.

But I cheated. I would look at the keyboard in front of me every time the teacher turned her back. I hated it. I didn’t care if I ever learned to type much less how fast. I only wanted to pass.

Back then I didn’t see any need to learn to type with any degree of proficiency. Yes, there were term papers and projects that I had to type but beyond that my view was typing was for secretaries. And while I had little idea what I wanted to do at the time I knew that was not my career path. It sounded far too traditional for a woman of my feminist leaning mind. Apparently I was not alone in that thought since today we call such individuals administrative assistants.

So I cheated. I didn’t envision a world in which one day we would all be sitting affixed to a computer screen no matter what our job title. I couldn’t imagine that I would communicate with friends and business associates as much through email as I would phone. It never occurred to me that the keyboard would eventually be committed to my memory out of necessity.

So I cheated. I hated when I made a mistake. Hated whiteout and correct-o-tape and all those antique accoutrements that accompanied the days before computers became commonplace.
I hated the noise of the machines and the lining up of carbon paper between sheets if you needed to make a copy.

I cheated. And still somewhere along the line I learned where all the letters sit. I can type and look at the screen in front of me or the blue and green wash of the town of Aspen. I can think and write and not agonize over where each key sits. Mistakes can be corrected as easily as hitting a delete button or spell check.

I confess. I cheated. But I still don’t care how fast I type. Only what I type.
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