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 farookinâ€™ deal.
For me, the long ball was taking one lousy semester of â€œNon-Commercial Typingâ€ in my freshman year of high school. I have often said that Mrs. McGrathâ€™s typing course, complete with the brain numbing drills â€œJâ€¦Uâ€¦Jâ€¦spaceâ€¦Jâ€¦Uâ€¦Gâ€¦spaceâ€¦Jâ€¦Aâ€¦Jâ€¦spaceâ€¦EYES OFF THE KEYBOARDâ€¦â€ 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 â€œthirty-â€˜fieâ€™ mutha f***inâ€™ words a minuteâ€ played some small part in the â€œblack boxâ€ 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 judgeâ€™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.