My legs hurt. My arm hurts. My back hurts. My foot hurts. Even my hair isn’t feeling so good. Every step is filled with pain. Standing up from my chair brings a new dimension in pain. I sat down hoping to relieve my leg pain, but sitting highlights the pain in my back.
Why the pain? Well, this is completely self inflected. Remember that hole I dug last week? I do. Well, this week it was time to put it all back. I worked on it all day yesterday (really, 10 – 5 with a short break for lunch, tea and a couple of crying fits when I realized I’d glued the wrong pipes together). Here’s what it looked today:
and here’s a picture of the forest garden and flowers this mass of pipes will water:
What is worse it that it’s reduced my ability to write. I am trying to think of short words to write with my left hand. I think I’ve set off my tendonitis in my right arm and words with these characters hurt to type: yuiop hjkl;” nm,.?
I’ve tried typing with just my left hand or one finger but I can’t write like that. Every time I try to type with one finger, the image of my 8th grade typing teacher looms up and I immediately sit up straight, eyes to the copy at the left and fingers in home position. From the front of the class I hear: “Don’t look at your hands – eyes on copy.” “We type with all fingers.” “What finger is ‘s’?” “Right thumb for the space bar.” I feared that woman. I still fear that woman.
In the 70’s it wasn’t normal for boys to take typing – that was a girl’s thing. Except for the drill sergeant in front of the class, being in a typing class full of girls wasn’t all that bad for a 14 year old boy.
Until they asked, “Why are you taking typing?” Which was usually followed by a few vague innuendoes about my future manhood, or lack thereof. Possibly this was compounded by the fact that I was also enrolled in a cooking class in the home economics department at the time. It was called, “Boy’s cooking,” but I think the girls were just upset because we made better cakes than they did…
After rereading that last paragraph, part of me wants to say something in defense of my manhood, but we now live in a world where …
I can’t finish that sentence with a straight face because the 14 year old in me is wishing we still had ink wells so I could get back at all those girls for being mean to me.
So now comes the painful admission: Why was I the only boy in a class of girls training to become a secretary?
I can’t handwrite – never could, never will. Put a pencil in my hand and ask me to write and not even I will be able to read it three days later. Trust me, the best teachers and my parents did their best to teach me. I was given pages to copy, books to read and sent to a specialist. Nothing – my ‘s’ and ‘5’ looked the same. ‘j’ and ‘t’ could only be distinguished on rare occasion.
There was talk of sending me to the “vocational school” – after all most car mechanics don’t need to write. I was saved from a life of manual labor by a frustrated 8th grade civics teacher who, after struggling through yet another one of my four page essays on government, suggested to my father, “why don’t you get the boy a typewriter and make him take typing classes – at least, I think he knows how to write, but I can’t make it out through the chicken scratches he turns in.”
I think this was the first time in my father’s life where he decided to “help me,” without deferring to my mother. Mother was all for sending me back to the third grade to start all over with the handwriting, but father pointed out, “I can’t handwrite either and with me as a father, Andy doesn’t have a chance at ever doing it right.” My father had some deep insights.
So that week, father went to the office machine shop and found me a nice second-hand manual typewriter and brought it home. He also got me a ream of paper, a typing eraser, and a box of extra ink ribbons (apparently they’re cheap if you buy 50 at a time).
Two days after that I got called into the counselor’s office at school and was informed that my request to transfer out of music class was granted and that I was to report to Miss Evil Typing Teacher on Monday for the first of four months of torture at the keyboard. I was also rewarded with the news that in summer school they were offering a special six-week class in typing and my teachers had all agreed that I would benefit from the four hours a day of typing.
I mentioned the summer school to father, hoping he’d see that watching soap operas would be a better use of my time.
By the time the class was over I could type 50 words a minute, never looked at my hands and hadn’t managed to say one coherent word to any girl in class.
None of us realized it at the time, but typing is one of the best things that happened to me. As a software engineer and a writer it is a foundational skill – without it I couldn’t do either.
But from time to time I like to remind myself why I didn’t become a plumber or whatever else they were teaching at vocational school by engaging in a little sweat generating activities. I just wish the lessons didn’t hurt so much.
Till next time,