Thursday 27 Oct 2016

The Typewriter
AJ Robinson

These days, few people use a typewriter. I imagine even fewer have even seen one! After all, what with computers doing all that typewriters do – and more – there’s little need for one. I’m old enough to remember them.

The first time I heard of a typewriter was when my dad told me about them. Actually, he was telling me about his mother. Before she met and married my grandfather, she was what, back then, a typewriter. Today, we would use the term typist; back then, women who did typing were typewriters.

In grade school, my teacher, dear Miss Bresnahand, brought an electric typewriter into the class for us try it out. None of us knew how to type, but we did enjoy playing on the typewriter. Not to be too boastful, but I alone hit on a – what could be called – constructive means of using it. With my classmates, they tended to just hit the same key repeatedly. Actually, they just held the same key down and delighted in watching the typewriter zip down the page. Me, I thought about my grandmother; what she must have done as a typewriter. I sat at the typewriter and just randomly hit the keys until the page was full, then pulled it out and showed it to Miss Bresnahand. She, much to my delight, studied the page and looked for actual words that I had inadvertently typed. No, I didn’t write “Hamlet," as is theorized a roomful of Lowland chimps might.

Still, I did create a few words, and she circled and showed them to me. I beamed with joy. I had written something and hooked. Whenever I had some free time, I would sit at that typewriter and bang away. I started out with the same words I’d done before, and then I tried others. I’d add “ing” or “ed” to the words, I’d think about bigger words I’d heard people say and try to figure out how to spell each one.

Over time, I got better and better.

A few years later, I picked up an old Royal Typewriter at a yard sale. It was quite heavy, I’d say it weighed a lot more than a laptop; it was not electric and needed a new ribbon. My dad got me a two-color ribbon: black and red. After that, I started typing all kinds of things, all of my first stories. Initially, I typed on both sides of the paper, and it was lined paper! I would adjust the paper to make the text lined up with each line of the paper.

It fell to my dad to explain to me about typing on one side and using blank paper. I was amazed; how could I type things on paper without lines? I eventually learned, and I kept that typewriter for the longest time. When IBM came out with their electric model with the little ball, I didn’t bother getting it – I liked my Royal. When we moved to Florida, I brought it along.

Finally, some years later, I got a computer and was pleased to see that the letters were set up the same as my typewriter. Despite having used it for many years, I’d never bothered to take a speed typing class. I did the old “hunt and peck” routine. It didn’t bother me; over the years, I’d gotten so good that I actually memorized the entire keyboard. I could sit there, type away, and read my notes, watch TV, or even give special attention to Romeo and Shakespeare, our two dogs, as they wrestled on the floor.

As is readily apparent, I still do a lot of typing and I do it all on my laptop. Yet, there are still days when I miss that old Royal. There was something about slamming my finger down on a key, seeing the little metal rod fly up and strike the paper, and watching as the permanent ink formed words that gave me such a feeling of satisfaction.

Maybe it’s a feeling a connection with my grandmother and dear Miss Bresnahand. Thank you for your inspiration.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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