Typing, piano use same skill

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My friend Sean has taken up writing and honored me by sharing some of it. That he has a gift with words is undeniable, even if he doesn’t completely realize it.

The first piece I read was when he shared his thoughts about 9/11. Living in New York City and seeing the towers burning changed his life and was the catalyst for his writing.

Since then I’ve read several things. One of them, his adventure driving from New York to Alabama for a Christmas visit had me laughing so hard tears filled my eyes. The story needs to be an episode on some television sitcom.

This week he sent another chronicle recalling his experience in a high school typing class. It stirred my memories. For him, the class was a kind of torture, because he was not excited about learning to type. He didn’t see a need for the skill.

His description of the timed tests put me right back in Mrs. Cowen’s class. Of course, I wanted to learn to type, so the class was fun for me. I liked the timed stuff far more than typing business letters or memos or some other practical exercise.

Sean described high school as B.C., before computers, something to which I relate. His recollections of White-Out and chalky correction paper reminded me how far we’ve come since the days of the electric typewriter, which at the time I took typing was a huge upgrade from the old Royal machine we had at home.

Oh and who can forget carbon paper? Remember the inky mess on your hands and smudgy streaks on what was supposed to be a crisp, clean copy of the original?

Stencils were another exercise in frustration. No matter how hard I tried I never managed to get through a stencil project without leaving out an important word or making an error that required starting from scratch.

All I can say is thank goodness for copiers. They are a gift from heaven; and so is spell check and grammar check and word count.

When I think back to the days I struggled with typing term papers without the aid of these I shudder. I’d hate to know I had to produce a piece of writing without them.

As he reminisced about typing, Sean’s mind drifted to a comparison of typing class with learning to play the piano, something that is also in my memory bank. Like me, the idea of playing the piano seemed fun. However, the reality of what it takes to actually play it well is another thing altogether.

Sean put it this way, “I thought I wanted to play the piano until I realized how frustratingly slow the process of education is for both the piano and the typewriter.” While the typewriter wasn’t that hard for me, his thoughts on the piano are exactly the same as mine.

He went on to share how he is grateful his parents insisted he take that typing class, how useful it is now that he has a computer and the role knowing how to type played in helping him get through the events that came into his life as a result of 9/11.

His chronicle that starts with typing class winds to a hopeful, uplifting climax that made me smile, one I won’t share here because when Sean has the opportunity to publish some of his work I don’t want to have ruined the ending for anyone.

As I read my friend’s words, I thought, as I have so many times, about the magic of the written word and how through writing we can share experiences and feel connected. My hope is that my friend keeps writing and keeps sharing those words that he has such a gift for typing.