In the course of my working life in which a keyboard is a vital tool, many people have remarked, either with amazement or disdain, at the fact that I am a two-finger typist. That’s right — both my right and left index digits ply the keys to create words, transcribe documents and old articles, or just jabber with friends on Facebook.
While the touch type system, in which several fingers are employed, is the norm for business purposes and everyday tasks, folks who observed me at work were astonished at how fast I had become with the old hunt-and-peck style utilized by people who don’t normally type. Except by then it was no longer a case of slowly locating the correct key and then striking it — it was like I had mentally absorbed where the desired keys were on the board and just continued, correcting my typos as I went along before giving the document on which I labored a good once-or-twice-over.
During recent pollworker training where I tried familiarizing myself with the letter and number arrangement of the electronic pollbook used for the first time by the Gallia County Board of Elections, I was asked, “You have a keyboard at home, don’t you?” I responded, “Yeah, but I never look at it.”
Other individuals dismiss my efforts as hopelessly old-hat (sometimes in addition to everything else I do). This usually comes from proponents of touch typing who worked long and hard to master that skill in their training. A clerk-typist at one newspaper where I worked threatened to smash my hands down on the keyboard and show me how to type properly because my way drove her to distraction. Now don’t get me wrong. I truly admire touch typists’ ability to get a huge amount of words on paper (or screen) without error in a certain amount of time. But somehow, working under newspaper deadlines — and the fact my employers were simply delighted that I could type and spell at all — my errant way of doing so became sharper with use.
It all goes back to teaching myself to use a typewriter back in the day. My dad had a 1950s Royal, the kind with windows on the side so you could see the mechanism at work, from the time he was in business for himself. He had since let the machine sit in a room where he stored his hunting rifles and family effects. I was writing stuff even then in my usual illegible scrawl, but wondered what it would look like if it was typewritten. On humid summer mornings when I was about 10 the Royal and I became acquainted. I later gained access to my older sister’s portable — I’ve forgotten the make — and continued pounding keys with my two lead fingers as I went into high school.
Now there I could have learned the touch system, but I was satisfied with what my non-conformist way was producing. College saw me work with the Olivetti carry-along my parents gifted me along with roommate David Witmer’s own machine when I had to place mine in the shop for repair. I graduated to IBM Selectrics at the Scripps School of Journalism in Athens and my internship with the Gallipolis Daily Tribune. Switching to Harris Compuedits became the norm once technology entered the newsroom. By then I guess you could say I was thoroughly ruined as far as touch typing was concerned.
And so it goes. My system of typing may not be yours, and I certainly wouldn’t challenge anyone with touch skills to a duel of keyboards. But it works for me, gets the job done, and as long as the fingers I depend on aren’t totally bent out of shape, I’ll continue working in that manner. But after having used desktop keyboards for so long, have you ever tried the keys on a typewriter, if you can still find one? I recommend you don’t, unless you want to break something.
Not being the most observant person in the world, and for various reasons not getting into Gallipolis all that much, I eventually noticed that an Eastern Avenue building that once housed a few fast-food operations was no longer standing. It had not been used as a restaurant for several years, and at first glance it seemed odd that there wasn’t something to be found at that corner except a better view of the wastewater treatment plant.
When I was first came to Gallipolis in June 1979, there was a Burger Chef at the site. How long it had stood there I don’t know. I remember Burger Chef’s product was kind of different, not so much for taste but because it came in a Baggie-kind of wrapper. Before my student days were over, a Burger Chef eventually opened in downtown Athens. Not long after my return to Gallipolis in September 1980 to work full-time for Ohio Valley Publishing, the building was replaced by beef sandwich vendor Rax, which it remained for around two decades.
The Rax carried some pleasant memories for me, not only for the food (I can still taste the BBC, or beef, bacon and cheddar on a corn-dusted roll), but in the early days of our marriage when Beth and I would have lunch there on Sundays after visiting the Bossard Memorial Library and stocking up on reading material. Soon, though, Rax was no more and after a period of vacancy, the building later housed East of Chicago Pizza and China One.
The property will probably be used for another purpose, but seeing it now and further up the road an empty Kmart, both once vibrant businesses especially at this time of the year, tugs at my memory and sense of nostalgia for what once was. Things do change, but for the better? It’s open to debate.
Kevin Kelly, who was affiliated with Ohio Valley Publishing for 21 years, resides in Vinton, Ohio.