Wednesday, September 24, 2008

No Tears (Except of Joy) Shed

Our Girl in Chicago (OGIC), writes in this entry of the loss she felt when she stopped using a typewriter. I feel no empathy nor recognition with her finely written piece. I, instead, recall the continuous pain, remorse, and invention of new curse words when I think back on the college days when (Warning! Dating information coming) typewriters were the only alternative to arthritis-inducing handwriting.

Ms. Demanski (OGIC) must have been a wizard on the typewriter keys. Speed, no errors, no need for quick editing. My experience was not that romantic. Countless reports that had to be re-typed. Endless nights roaming the streets looking for open stores selling typewriter ribbons. Re-typing pages because a word had been typed incorrectly so many times that there were holes in the pages. Electricity going out in our student apartment thus shutting down my electric typewriter as I was half-way through finishing a paper due the next day. No, a typewriter was a soul-sucking machine that simply served the purposes of the reader, not the writer. The writer became a key-puncher (and letter eraser) shuffling the too-many drafts around on the floor, searching for the bon mot page that was chucked 2-3 drafts ago. My typing skills were so bad that if a professor offered the option of a hand-written paper, I immediately broke out paper and pen.

It wasn't that my typewriter was to blame. My folks, proud to have their first born trudge off to the Big Time of Schooling, scrimped and saved to send me off with an electric Olympia, a low-humming beast that built up my pecs as I lugged it around the dorm room. It was such a beauty that other dorm mates "borrowed" it. Let's just say that it was not the best decision on my part to lend it out. The Olympia was returned with some keys loosened and the typewriter ribbon bled of any black color. Somehow, it was an expected practice that freshman keep their machines fully maintained for the upper class folks who did you a favor by using your equipment. That lending practice ended halfway through the first semester, before the Olympia was totally inoperable.
I'll give Ms. Demanski (OGIC) one point. The low hum of the Olympia and the striking of the keys were soothing sounds. At first. When those striking keys ended up striking not so clear sentences, sounds of a non-soothing nature tended to erupt from my lips. Thanks God for great Croatian curses!

There is no nostalgia from this guy about typewriters. I was more than happy to donate mine to the local zoo so that the chimps could have their chance to write Shakespeare. I'd even throw in the barrel of White-Out and those nasty whiting strips, although I believe the monkeys' typing skills were far better than mine.


I am in complete agreement with you. My nostalgia for typewriters is strictly non-utilitarian: I couldn't imagine a circumstance that would inspire me to re-thread a ribbon into one of those old bastards and start pounding keys. The cheapest ballpoint pen is very much preferable to even the most advanced typewriter.

A personal footnote: my high school "Introduction To Typing" class was the only class I failed. Peel away the ironies, if you like (begin with: "The only class that still serves him...") but I am most grateful for word processors.
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