Back in the day–that would be back before the Internet, personal computers, and virtual reality–I had a dad.
I don’t think I’ve listened to a word my dad has said since I was in junior high. It’s not that we don’t get along, it’s just that he’s only interested in two subjects: football, basketball, and mathematics. I know you think that’s three, but I can’t tell the difference between football and basketball so they count as one. Mathematics is okay, but I prefer geometry and Dad’s an algebra man. Not much to work with there.
So it came as a big surprise when he announced over Thanksgiving Dinner at the Waffle House that if it hadn’t been for him making me take typing back in the day, I would have been giving a speech on high school graduation day. I guess he was feeling guilty or something. I think Dad’s been to one too many group hug sessions at this point.
His astonishing statement was humorous on a number of levels. First off, the idea that my dad had any influence on my high school life is ludicrous. Apart from that though, I wonder what the actual valedictorian and salutatorian would have to say about it. The val is the head of four or five multinationals. The sal runs the cancer trauma unit of Beth Ishmael Hospital in lower Manhattan. Somehow I don’t think I was ever in the running for either of their positions on the Big Day.
Good ol’ Dad.
It is true, though, that I did not do well in Ms. Jackson’s typing class. Ms. Jackson had been recruited by our school after she received a discharge from her duties as a drill sergeant at the local Army base. Something about spikes under fingernails or something. Sgt. Jackson hated me and for good reason. I have no hand to eye coordination and so was terrible at both manual and electric typewriters. I know nobody here knows what those two cave tools are, but that’s what we had back in the day. I sucked at both even though the electric was “so much easier to use.” Right.
Try to imagine what it was like (Shut down Twitter, iTunes, and YouTube if it helps). There is no delete key or revert-to-saved option in the typewriter world. Every key stroke is committed to paper. You can’t erase your mistakes electronically. The best you can do is use correct-o-tape which leaves little waxy tell-tale signs around each corrected letter. I had a subscription to the stuff down at the stationery store. Unfortunately Sgt. Jackson frowned upon correct-o-tape. With a stick, as a matter of fact. I tried camouflaging the corrections by dropping the paper onto the floor and boot smudging it. It worked about 30% of the time, and then only because Sarge stopped checking my work after I racked up enough mistakes to merit the red “F.” Today I cry at how invisible errors are.
Suffice it to say that if I was in the running for top honors in the graduating class, there’s a good chance typing would have kept me out of it. But to think it’s all Dad’s fault is amusing and charming. Has the poor man been losing sleep about my lost opportunity?
I hope not. Regardless of what grade I got out of Sgt. Jackson, that class may have been the best idea Dad, or whoever, ever had. I owe my familiarity with the QWERTY keyboard to high school typing class. Others my age may have evaded Sarge’s typing class, but now they’re hog-tied to a pathetic hunt and peck existence. Meanwhile, I zip through life with my fingers flying over QWERTY with confidence and speed. No longer concerned about mistakes, I type well over 100 words a minute, turning in my reports on time and without messy boot smudges.
Someday QWERTY will be replaced by a brain to computer interface. We’ll send our instructions to our AIs instantly without having to use our sloppy hands. Until then, though, QWERTY and I will remain thick as thieves. Buds.
I’m not going to let Dad know about that, though. I’ll let him stew in his guilt-juices for a while. That ought to be worth something at some point. Maybe he’ll bequeath me a legacy or something. Come to think of it, though, what’s he got but a bunch of Algebra books? Not much for a geomophile to work with.