Monday, August 16, 2010

The Good Olden Days

This post is dedicated to all of you out there, who remember your first typewriter. [For the rest of you, Granny B has a tale from when telephones were connected to the wall and you had to flip the record every 20 minutes]

I had a brand, new electric model that I carted off to college. A graduation present. It was so fancy that it could remember the last five letters you typed, and erase them. No White-Out for me! (Four years later, I owned my first computer--a little boxy Mac SE with a screen like a postcard--and the typewriter was mothballed.)

Back in those days, you composed in a notebook, with a pencil or pen, and then rolled a piece of typing paper against the platen (crrk, crrk, hopefully the top edge of the paper was even) and typed up your piece--remembering to hit the return key (electric) or carriage return lever (manual) when the warning bell went off to roll the paper up a line. Woe to she who forgot and ran out of space for a word... (margin release key, hyphen) It was a slow process that required forethought, a variety of accessories (aforementioned White-Out to paint over mistakes; carbon paper, if you wanted a copy), and time. To "send," you folded up your piece of paper in an envelope, addressed it, and pressed a licked stamp on it before taking it to a mailbox.

Back then, an argument with some one you didn't know might play itself out in letters-to-the-editor or some other published space. Rebuttals weren't remotely immediate and there was time to think about the conflict, perhaps deciding your response wasn't even worth the effort. To fly off the handle at a stranger took at least three or four days, depending on your distance.

I suspect part of my discomfort with the whole tenor of last week's debate, was how fast it happened. While I see myself as completely computer-literate, it is my second language...I'm an ex-pat from the Land of the Analog. Clocks with hands. Typewriters. Phones with cords. Television knobs. Trying to keep up with all the comments and related blog posts was exhausting and the speed that opinions were posted gave me whiplash. A perfect storm of emotion and reaction. Often missing a pause for reflection (myself included).

And I'm glad we were all able to participate. How cool is a global discussion? But I still get agitated arguing with a person I've never met; forming opinions based on a single, careless adjective. ("How dare he call me jealous!") I lost a lot of sleep worrying about my own snippy comments, fired off in a moment of viewpoint-defending passion. How so not like me--a yoga teacher! A Midwesterner! A lot of anxiety was generated as I operated outside my usual contemplative, non-confrontational zone.

I guess that's life as an immigrant...never completely of one land or another, fondly remembering the traditions of Old Country, but embracing the innovations of the New. I'll have to remind myself, in the next go round, to keep a dictionary handy and remember cultural niceties. Don't gesture with the middle finger or stick chopsticks straight up and down in my rice. So to speak...

We still have a shelf-full of 45s and 12" singles, by the way (ask your parents about that, my dears...)


YogaforCynics said...

Given my terminally clumsy fingers, I must say that I'm eternally grateful for the miracle of word processing, and thinking of my first typewriting experiences mostly brings up memories of frustration and liquid paper that really didn't work very well.

I mostly kept out of last week's debate (if I'm thinking of the same one you are)...or I should say, I kept participating, in the form of ripping into something ridiculous somebody said, and then hit delete, and my not very constructive words went no further. Alas, I don't always show such restraint, and have banned myself from social networking sites for giving in to my worst instincts (and, in fact, right now I'm fretting a comment I left somewhere earlier--incredibly to-the-point, I think, but, ultimately, less likely to make my interlocutors question their own viewpoint than to cause them to harden and think people who think of them are jerks...

Rachel @ Suburban Yogini said...

As a little girl I used to type on my mum's old manual typewriter. I still have it. It makes me feel like a novelist!

I also have a substantial collection of 45s and 33s :)

Yogadawg said...

To this day it amazes me that people used to write without cutting and pasting or using spell check.

Linda-Sama said...

I worked for lawyers for 20 years and started back in the day before computers. I typed 100+ page Appellate briefs on an IBM Selectric. and believe me, Appellate court briefs need to be perfect. if I had to make a change on page 50, that means retyping half the brief. I am proud to say that I still type REALLY fast, probably about 80 WPM.

People have it way too easy now! Spell check has contributed to the decline of civilization as we know it.