Poor Practical Man. How’s a fella supposed to get his beauty sleep? Not that he needs it, except that, oh yeah, he’s married to ME.
The problem with Practical Man’s beauty sleep has its roots in the summer I was 11. I had a children’s typewriter and my aunt Heather, who taught high school typing, taught me the Home Row that summer. Not unlike today, I was a somewhat reluctant participant in The Nature and all that outdoorsy stuff. Sitting inside huddled over a keyboard seemed like my idea of a perfect, clean, bug-free, non-sweaty activity.
Me and my neuroses never looked back.
Being a bookish child with a love of words and long, piano-playing fingers seemed to help me flourish with my new talent. I could picture words and sentences in my head and my fingers just naturally seemed to be able to follow. I quickly became a freakishly-fast typist.
Not that I cared.
I was too busy having fun typing the content of my Nancy Drew books and skillfully avoiding fresh air and The Nature to notice that I seemed to be some kind of typing savant.
In grade 8, my parents bought me an antique typewriter. Black and huge, it made me feel like I had arrived, y’know, typing-wise.
My already reasonably-trained piano fingers became like Olympic athletes in typing. It was the early 80s so I only had homemade lemonade and a pile of 45 records on my Mickey Mouse record player to propel me to heights of typing greatness.
This kind of oddball talent today tends to be encouraged with energy drinks, typing boot camp, and possibly even a YouTube channel.
The manual typewriter had little round keys that connected to a lever that bent 90 degrees and went all the way up inside the machine. It had a triple ribbon with black on the top, clear in the middle and red on the bottom. I often liked to type in “invisible ink” by using the clear strip in the middle.
In addition to fancying myself as Nancy Drew, I also aspired to be Enclopedia Brown. Invisible ink, writing ciphers, writing backwards and hieroglyphics were going to be key to my future, I just knew it. Typing could only add to my impressive arsenal of burgeoning detective skills.
At first, I had problems with several keys jamming in an inky bundle on the surface of the paper, when I went too fast. But gradually, I learned how to pace things so that the regularity of my pace enabled me to go faster and faster, without a jam. Soon, the sheer force required to get an ‘a’ or an apostrophe to WHACK on the page caused me to have the strongest baby fingers in the West.
Well, East actually since by that time we had moved back to Ontario.
Anyway, I had a pinky swear to be reckoned with. Kids in the neighbourhood knew not to try some kind of noodly pinky swear about being Best Friends Forever, on my watch.
Faster, faster, faster I would type. Ba-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da then FLING! I would hit the carriage return and the typewriter would re-set itself on the next line with a tremendous THUMP.
Every few lines, I had to drag the typewriter back in front of me as all the WHACKING and FLINGING and THUMPING had caused it to travel to the right edge of the desk and nearly fall off.
But finally, progress out of the dark ages of typing.
While hanging out at my dad’s office in the summers, I got to type on the Cadillac of typewriters at the time: The IBM Selectric. It had letter balls that could be changed out (all the better for me to type the formulas that Dad needed for engineering) and a quiet hum of electricity that didn’t even come close to competing against the furious pounding of my fingers.
I had developed my speed on an antique, manual typewriter. This Selectric made my fingers supersonic with barely any effort (I also fancied myself the Bionic Woman). I pounded way too hard for this sensitive keyboard but my freakishly-fast typing got even faster. Like, 120+ net-words-per-minute-I-got-entered-in-contests kind of faster. My typing won me…ta dah! A Laura Branigan record and a case of Coke.
Sigh. It was the 80s and again…if only there had been YouTube. I could have retired in a vintage Airstream at the age of 16 off the royalties from my wildly successful “Teen Typing Talk” videos, TV show and of course–since every famous person seems to have them–perfumes and cookbooks.
My freakish talent did, however, land me well-paying summer jobs and allowed me to live across the Atlantic with my ability to dazzle people world-wide into giving me a secretarial job. There’s nothing quite like causing an entire office of cubicles to go completely silent as you finish up your timed writing, to get you a job offer (on bended knee, no less), and a hot cup of tea.
I was the Sophia Grace and Rosie of typing. It’s almost as good as being Nancy Drew, I reckon.
Yes, typing’s been good to me, but these days, I am a true vintage relic, with my home row and use of all 8 fingers and right thumb. Yes, these days boys and girls, it’s all about the thumbs. Thumbs rule.
That leaves me sad and wandering around with surplus finger energy.
In memory of the good old days, we have a vintage typewriter on the table in our front hall. The paper in it conveys different messages, depending on the season. Sometimes, it simply says “Beware the Sleep-Deprived Man“.
Because, yes, Practical Man may be wandering in a typing-induced daze out in The Nature of our yard. And, it’s my fault because with all that surplus finger energy, I have been Ba-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da FLING! THUMPing the dialogue from my dreams, on his arm, all night long again.
But tonight will be better, I pinky swear.