My friend Sluggo wrote a terrific post about how being the guy who knew how to paint a flat surface to look like a brick wall turned out for him to be a bit of a life-altering event. That got me to thinking about things we learn along the way that seem unremarkable when we learn them, but later turn out to be a big farookin’ deal.
For me, the long ball was taking one lousy semester of “Non-Commercial Typing” in my freshman year of high school. I have often said that Mrs. McGrath’s typing course, complete with the brain numbing drills “J…U…J…space…J…U…G…space…J…A…J…space…EYES OFF THE KEYBOARD…” etc. was the single most important course I ever took. In terms of its usefulness to me, it trumped every other course I took in high school, college, graduate school and law school.
I never had to stress over finding someone to type my term papers, and I could blast out a letter (when we wrote those things on paper) while others lumbered along with a ballpoint pen. I believe, although I can never be certain, that my ability to type “thirty-‘fie’ mutha f***in’ words a minute” played some small part in the “black box” of decision making that resulted in my not toting a rifle and getting my ass shot off in Vietnam.
Years later, when I was a Law Clerk, I scrounged around the courthouse to get my hands on a Royal manual typewriter, which enabled me to do the initial drafts of long bench memos infinitely faster than doing them in longhand. Much to the delight of the judge’s secretaries (who had the then state-of-the-art Wang word processors and would have to transcribe our memos) my typed drafts were more readable than my chicken scratch. I learned then the value of not pissing off secretaries.
Nowadays when doing virtually everything from writing a letter to ordering socks online requires use of a keyboard, I am golden. I can type faster than most people who are hired to be typists.
I may be a techno-knucklehead, but I can type my ass off.
The guys I hung around with in high school back then all opted to take mechanical drawing and were not shy about busting my horns over taking a typing course. I figure that the joke’s on them, because I have gone through life thus far without ever having to use a T-Square or having to draw an orthographic projection of damned widget.
Thank you, Mrs. McGrath. Oh, and my bullet-free ass thanks you too.