Adventures in Retirement


Nostalgic Revery #103

It happened again. One of the techs at work noticed me typing some long document today and commented on the fact that I wasn’t looking at the keyboard while I typed. Don’t need to when you’re a touch typist.

Underwood Typewriter

Underwood Typewriter

Seems like more people are typing these days, but touch typists are growing rare. Everybody learns enough to use his personal computer, but only just. Those of us who struggled to learn to type on an old manual typewriter before moving on to an IBM Selectric (sigh, I miss it still) are becoming more and more redundant as machines get better at doing our jobs and so push us a little closer to the proverbial pasture each year.

But it sent my mind drifting back 30-plus years to a former life. I was a notereader and typist at a large Washington, DC freelance reporting firm, twenty-something and fresh from school. I remember a lady at the firm, Magnificent Mildred, who was the best typist I ever knew. As I passed her desk, sometimes I would linger just so I could see her at work.

Such an economy of motion! Her hands hovered over the keyboard. Only her fingers moved. No wasted motion. And the speed! A really good typist clocks in at about 80-90 words per minute or a little better. Mildred did 120 wpm on a bad day. Watching her work was like watching an excellent chef sculpt a satin-finish wedding cake, a masterpiece. I was impressed!

IBM Selectric with Squeeze Key

IBM Selectric

So what does it all mean? Some days I feel like a seasoned, mature worker capable of doing anything the boss throws at me. And some days I just feel like an IBM Selectric typewriter. In its day, it was a fabulous workhorse. Capable of so much, sleek and stylish in candy-apple red or charcoal gray, it was the mainstay of any typist’s tools. I once spent over $1000 for one with a legal sized platen and all the bells and whistles (remember the squeeze key?), and now you can get one for $25 or less. (Shaking head in disgust.)

Sweet dreams. Must be time to turn in.