Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Paper Jam

Between my tissue paper paintings and some summer activities going on at home, I thought of another story of crumpled paper:

In preparation for entering high school next year, my daughter is abandoning the hunt and peck method and learning to type properly - you know, hands on home base and all that. My husband came home with a typing instruction program, and the rest of the family planned to brush up, too. He also dug up an old Gregg Shorthand book and decided to take a crack at that.

I’ve declined to jump in on this. I developed both skills in high school, before going to work as a secretary to pay for college. I learned to type on a manual typewriter, when pinky fingers got a workout and an awkward rhythm caused an unfortunate pileup of keys jammed up in the middle. Luckily, I never had to put my questionable shorthand skills to the test. The dictaphone had become popular for typing up drafts.

I was also lucky enough to have an electric typewriter available at work, complete with correction tape and an automatic correction key. Unfortunately, this didn’t correct the sandwich of carbon copies as thick as baklava that went behind your original document. If you made a typo, you’d have to erase your mistake from all eight or ten copies, with an eraser that worked more like a black grease pencil. If you made more than two mistakes, your document was pretty much toast. Accuracy was very, very important.

A friend in the next office was, like me, fresh out of high school and eager to make a good impression. Every day at lunchtime we’d compare notes on how many people we’d accidently hung up on or what urgent message we’d forgotten to deliver. One day, about a week into our new jobs, she sheepishly dug into her handbag and produced a giant, twisted wad of stationery. I burst out laughing, and reached into my purse to produce an identical roll of twisted paper. Both of us, afraid an overflowing wastebasket would reveal our incompetence, thought it best to smuggle evidence of our shortcomings out of the building in our bags.

Until now, I hadn’t given any thought to the convenience of paperless typing. Of course, printer problems are another matter.

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