Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Keyed Up Birthday Memories

Today is my birthday.

The day I was born, Harry S. Truman was President, though Eisenhower was poised to take over the nation’s reins a few weeks later. The #1 hit song was I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and the Los Angeles Rams lost the NFL National Conference Championship to the Detroit Lions. Gasoline averaged $.28/gallon.

The day before I was born, my mother was Christmas shopping.

As she told it, she started having labor pains while finishing up her holiday shopping. After all, it was the last weekend before Christmas. Did she tell my father when she went into labor? No. Not. My. Mother. Worried the shopping wouldn’t get done if she left it up to my father (which was a valid concern), she continued on, grabbing a display table every now and then when a contraction hit. The determined and head-strong woman made it home, wrapped and tagged all the gifts and, knowing her, finished her baking, before finally telling Dad it might be time to head for the hospital. I was born late the next morning.

Like every other human on the planet, I have memories of specific milestones in my life. Events not told to me by my parents. I recall walking to the bus stop on my first day of school, holding tight to my lunchbox while my brother held my other hand. I remember my father teaching me to ride a bike. (The man didn’t believe in training wheels. He put me on a hill and when I started pedaling, he let go. Trust me on this. I still have 35mm movies of it.) There was my first bra. My first kiss. My first novel.

But the vivid memory that’s been visiting me this week has been of learning to type, brought about, no doubt, by the recent purchase of a fancy new laptop. Typing. I do it everyday. Often several hours a day. It’s as second nature to me as breathing and just as easy. And the skill has kept food on my table for many years.

I learned to type my freshman year at Whittier High School. I was fourteen. If you do the math, that’s 44 years of typing and my fingers are still going strong. It was in a class filled with the clatter of manual keys smashing against hard platens. When we got to the end of each line, bells would ring. The clatter would stop, replaced by the loud rasping sound of teenage hands yanking the heavy carriage back to the beginning with the help of a slender but sturdy metal arm. The clatter would begin again. And again. And again. There were no delete or undo buttons. No copy and paste features. And definitely no spell check. Not even correction tape. Errors were forever and we were graded on speed and accuracy. And don't get me started on changing the messy &$#@# ribbons.

My typing style is still very aggressive and very fast. I hit the keys hard, often wearing the letters off the keyboard. I blame this on learning to type on heavy machines with stiff keys. It’s also a good thing I learned to touch-type, considering those blank keys. But except for the sound of my fingers hitting the letters, my computer is silent. There’s no bell. No metal against metal return of the carriage. No jamming of keys. The words flow from my brain, down my arms and spurt out through the tips of my ten fingers onto the page like magic. Any malfunction can be solidly blamed on my thought process, not my digits.

Nostalgia is fun and gasoline returning to $.28 a gallon sounds grand, but I wouldn’t want to type my novels on an old Royal or Remington. And I’m sure glad I wasn’t born in the middle of a department store (Thanks, Mom!).

Sue Ann Jaffarian
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Mason Canyon said...

Sue Ann, Happy Birthday. Hope all your wishes come true.

Thoughts in Progress

Keith Raffel said...

Happy birthday, Sue Ann. So I guess better writing issues forth from a laptop than a typewriter?

Mark said...

Happy birthday!

I was given an old typewriter by my grandparents for a birthday one year, so that's what I learned to type on. Always looked at my fingers, too. Not sure when it became touch typing now, but is this even ingrained.

I remember when I got a word processor (not a full computer yet) in college. It was pure magic not having to manually return at the end of the line and being able to correct mistakes. That's when I got faster (and made more typos, most of which I don't seem to catch).

Okay, I'll stop rambling down memory lane now and go to bed. :)

Fishing said...

Happy Birthday!

Lisa Bork said...

Happy Birthday, Sue Ann!! Great story about your mom.

A lot of people know their way around a computer these days, but not everyone knows how to type. Much more efficient when you know which finger goes to which key. Keep on pounding away!

Dru said...

Happy Birthday Sue Ann!

Remember the pull-down screen of the typewriter in the front of the room?

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Happy Birthday, Sue Ann! :) Your mom sounds like quite a lady!

Lois Winston said...

Happy birthday, Sue Ann! Your typing class story sounds amazingly similar to mine. Our class machines contained blank keys except for the top row of numbers/symbols. To this day I can type without looking at the keyboard except when I have to type numbers and symbols! I often wondered why that top row wasn't blank as well.

Vicki Doudera said...

I didn't take typing in high school. To my way of thinking, typing was for secretaries and since I had much loftier ambitions,I didn't "need" such a practical skill. One year of paying other people good money to type my college Comp Lit papers showed me the folly of my ways and I took typing over the summer. I'm thankful I smartened up!

Happy Birthday Sue Ann! See you in January.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Thank you for the Birthday wishes everyone!

Keith - better writing comes from within. Convenience comes from the machine.

Dru and Lois- yes, I sure do remember that screen and the blank keys. I always make mistakes when I look at my fingers.

Vicki - we had 2 types of typing classes - one for "business majors" aka secretarial candidates that included ten-key, and one for college prep, which I took. I was one of those who was paid to type other student's papers.

Ann said...

Happy Birthday Sue Ann! Hope your day is merry! What a wonderful story revolving around your birth. Such dedication to the Christmas preparations!

Yes those high school typing classes were a trail unto themselves!

Darrell James said...

Honestly, I don't know how anyone finished a novel before "cut and paste". I wish I had learned to type, however. I have three-four digits that are pretty fast. And in the end, they work at least as fast as I can think. So I guess it all works out.

Happy Birthday, Sue Ann! Thanks for the look into the past.

Jess Lourey said...

Happy birthday, Sue Ann. Glad to see your mom passed on a healthy dose of her courage, humor, and practicality.

Beth Groundwater said...

Happy Birthday, Sue Ann!

I, too, learned to type in high school, and I still say that that class and "Senior Home Economics" were the two most useful classes of my four years of high school.

Brenda B. said...

Happy Birthday, Sue Ann! Thanks for the great typewriter memories. I have a collection of old manual ones. They make great art/conversation pieces.

Best wishes to you for a wonderful year ahead.

Brenda B. from Maine

Alan Orloff said...

Happy Birthday, Sue Ann! Hope all your birthday wishes come true. Today is my someone special's birthday, too. (And I also remember my first bra.)

Alice Loweecey said...

Happy birthday! I learned on a manual typewriter too.

Diana said...

Happy Birthday, Sue Ann. I loved joining you on the trip down memory lane.
I also have fond memories of typing class, a skill I treasure as I live in front of my computer.
Enjoy your special day!!!

Vicki said...

Happy Birthday, Sue Ann...and thanks for the trip down memory lane. How well I remember typing classes on the old manual typewriters and then my first job as a legal secretary where I had to use carbon paper. It was not fun correcting 8 carbon copies! However, like you, being able to type has always helped me land a good job and the new technology really does make the task of writing books and articles much less bumpy! Note that I didn't say 'easier'.

Patty said...

I also learned to type in tenth grade, just a few years after you. My most memorable moment re: typing? My brother-in-law was telling his oldest son not to take typing because he wanted to be a cop and they don't type. I informed him that cops were typing reports more than they were hand-writing tickets! I won, oldest nephew is a touch typist and it came in handy when he was tech support for Gateway!

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Wow, I am so overwhelmed with all the birthday wishes!

Beth, I didn't take Home Ec but typing was for me the most useful class.

Alan, I hear you're handing out new cars to anyone born on 12/21. I'll fax you my birth certificate.

Patty, in today's world of computer everything, everyone should know how to type. Cop or otherwise.