I am not sure when I lost the knowledge in my brain, but I can no longer tell you which finger I use to press the ‘a’ key on my keyboard. I think I used all of my fingers, including my right thumb (but not my left) to type what I’ve typed so far. Maybe. I find it odd that I can’t even tell you which finger I just used to type the apostrophe key, It’s possible it was my right little finger – okay I looked. I know that it takes two fingers to get a quote symbol (“). Which ones are a mystery to me. It just happens. I think of a word, a sentence, a symbol and magically my figures bang it out on the keyboard. To give them their privacy, I don’t look at my hands while they do this.
The scientist would refer to it as muscle memory.
My typing teacher told me 40 years ago that it would happen someday. Of course at 14, I didn’t believe her. I believe now.
I recall my first day of typing class. Part of me was embarrassed to be there – in the 70’s typing was for girls – but part of me kind of liked being in a class of mostly nice looking girls wearing very short dresses. Typing class was a sentence I earned because my handwriting was so awful that no, not even I, could read it. Perhaps typing became a crutch, but I still can’t handwrite.
There was a challenge to typing – speed and accuracy in copying someone else’s text into a nice letter or report. To increase speed we were taught to not look at our hand and to focus our eyes on the copy. To ensure we didn’t look at the keys to figure out where the ‘a’ key was, we had special keyboards – all the keys were blank. If you wanted to place that ‘a’ on the page you had to know that ‘a’ was in the home row, left little finger. Our teacher stressed that we had to commit these key locations to memory and with enough practice, we’d stop thinking about key locations and our hands would, “just know what to do.” She went further to say that in time we wouldn’t even think in terms of single keys but rather in whole words and groups of words.
It’s true. When I type, I think of words, phrases and my figures oblige my brain and the correct muscle movements translate my thoughts in to words, sentences and paragraphs on the screen which I then send to you.
It’s kind of like magic.
But all this does come at a cost. There are words I can only spell because I’ve learned them at the keyboard. When someone asks me how to spell a word, first I’ll laugh, then claim I don’t know and if they persist in needing to know I’ll type the word on my computer and read the letters aloud.
Muscle memory – my hands spell better than my brain.
Another cost, pain caused by repetitive stress injury. Human hands aren’t meant to work this way for the long hours that I often do at the keyboard. A few weeks ago I developed a major case of tendonitis in my arm and am now recovering from that. I am amazed how much it does hurt and dismayed at how long it takes to recover.
On the other list of things it takes a long time to recover from is prostate cancer – both the physical and emotional trauma of treatment. I don’t write about it much these days but this week I had my routine six month PSA blood test. It came in at a mere .7 which means that I can push the thought of that little health issue out of my brain for another six months and get on about the business of complaining about my arm.
Given the choice between the two, I’d rather complain about a bit of arm pain.
Till next week,