Clack…clack…clack…clack…clack…clack…clack…clack came the sound from Mr. Shipman’s class on the first day of school. Or maybe it was Mr. Bongard, or Mr. Davis, one of those somewhat familiar but long forgotten middle school teacher names.
You knew you had to take typing, but you didn’t really know why. It wasn’t even an elective, it was mandatory. “Typing? Am I going to be a secretary when I grow up?” The room smelled of old oil mixed with ink. Thirty two desks lined up in neat rows, each with a typewriter poised at the ready. It was all so military looking.
You picked out a desk and sat down. The first day, you learned terms like pica and elite, and carriage return, and white out, and a host of other meaningless jargon. “Let’s begin. Place your left hand on the ASDF keys, and your right hand on the JKL; keys. You’ll notice the F and J keys have little dimples so you’ll know you’re ‘home’ when you feel those on your pointer fingers. You’ll eventually be able to type without looking at the keys.”
“Seriously? No way.” you thought to yourself.
Beginning exercises: Asdf jkl; asdf jkl; jjjjjjjfjfjfjfjfj a;a;a;a;a;a; (“Ahhhh, my pinkies hurt Mr. Shipman!”) qwerty uiop zxcvbnm
Clack…clack…clack…clack on the four count. 1, 2, 3, 4 clack…clack…clack.clack clack…clack…clack…clack
The whole class sounded like a chorus, a chorus of clackers. Bing, whiz, bang! Clack…clack.clack…clack
Asdg “Shoot!” Then you learned about white out, and painting on paper. You took out the little black and white bottle, twisted the cap off, and painted with the little brush over the “g.” You blew on it so it would dry faster, the smell of paint rushes into your nose. You clacked over your white out. “Shoot! Wasn’t’ dry!” So you had an “f” but it was a smudged white paint mess of an “f.” Painted again, and again. Smell of paint grew stronger. Finally you had four layers of white out paint and an “f” perched on top of it. “Yes, finally!”
Slowly over the next couple of weeks, the clacks got quicker. Clack clack clack clack, clackety clack clack clack. Some of the kids had gotten really good. Clackety clickety clackety clickety clackety bing whiz bang!
The dog went for a walk
The boy rode his bike
The car goes fast
Clickety clackety don’t come backety. You started to find a rhythm, and clacks become quieter and faster. Clickety click clickety click click click clickety click clickety click clickety click click click. “My pinkies still hurt Mr. Shipman!”
You were picturing words in your mind and they were beginning to appear on the page, and make semse. “Shoot!” more whiteout.
You began to get faster and faster, but almost too fast for the typewriter, as the arms kept getting tangled together; especially when you typed particular words.
<shift> All work and no play make <shift> Jack a dull boy. <shift> All work and no play make <shift> Jack a dull boy.
When you came back to typing the next year, they had switched to all electric typewriters with autocorrect. “No more white out??!!”
Asdf jll “Shoot!” You hit the autocorrect button, cachunk, the “l” was magically gone. “Sweet. Let me try that again.” Qserfrj, autocorrect, autocorrect, autocorrect, cachunk, cachunk, cachunk. “No more painting!”
Then you were typing papers: one page papers, two page papers, ten page papers. You almost prefered typing them to hand writing them. 20 words per minute, 25 words per minute, 27 words per minute, 30 words per minute, on and on you pressed. The teacher held competitions for the fastest and neatest. You actually won one of the contests.
You looked forward to the opportunity to type more. Your mom pulled out an old Smith Corona from the basement that used to be your grandma’s. You began to crazily drive everyone at home crazy from your crazy typing skillz (no autocorrect needed). You were knocking out papers and writing letters and making flyers and typing your name on forms that needed to be filled out.
You were a writer.
Fast forward to today. You’re reading this essay and memories are possibly filling your brain; memories of Mr. Shipman and middle school and being late for class and winning the occasional contest. You think to yourself that you should probably write something, but what? “My blog?”
“Fiction? I’ve never tried fiction before. I’m not a fiction writer. I only write articles and journal entries and press releases and in my wordpress blog once in a while.”
Now it’s all AP Style and conjunctions and not ending sentences with a preposition and deadlines and figuring out your voice and ornery editors and watching the word counter and interviewees who won’t get back to you and google docs and problems with smart-quotes and editorial calendars and trying to be relevant in short tweets and responding to email after email and being proud that you use “you’re” and not “your” like so many people on Facebook and you use your phone more where you’ve switched from asdf-jkl; to hunt-n-peck and you actually look forward to hauling out your laptop so you can hear the clickety clickety clickety clickety again. You almost want to haul out the old Smith Corona. Nah.
Stops to drink more coffee.
You’re a writer. Go write.
IBM TYPEWRITERS & AUTO CORRECT