The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. My generation, especially women, learned to type in high school classes. My two older sisters took typing class for high school credit; my best friend was forced to take typing class at a different high school even in a college prep program. No typing class for me! I decided to teach myself on my dad’s old manual Underwood. I dug out my sister’s old typing manual, doggedly sat myself down with the Underwood every evening, and pecked away. There was nobody to criticize my form, wrist like this and fingers so and never ever look, nobody to see my mistakes and steal my sense of victory over this black beast of a machine. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog indeed!
Who made up these phrases and sentences anyway? Couldn’t it have been the quick brown dog that jumped over the lazy fox? Yet, stoically I typed away at the required words then phrases then sentences. No electric typewriter for this budding typist! Slam, shove the lever to the right for a new line of nonsense. Hoping it was the correct letter, my fingers punched each key making the typebar strike the paper with sufficient force to make a clear, crisp letter. Then on to the next key, ever seeking the letter I needed, then finally peeking at the paper hoping to see the same word that the book specified. Yes, I peeked even when the book commanded not to look.
All the time I was typing, I felt a sense of connection to my sister and my dad. She had used this same book—it was forever hers—and I followed in her footsteps or rather keystrokes in this typing experience. I sat at my dad’s big wooden desk, the one so associated with him and his business and that is still in the family. It was a privilege to sit at Daddy’s desk, a sacred space that embodied the man. And the beast, the huge old Underwood—that too was forever his.
Persistence paid off, and at last I could type 30 or 40 correct words per minute on the old beast without peeking. Time for a real typing test in the real world, I thought. Amazingly, I passed a typing test for a temp agency on my first try. I don’t remember if I ever got a job through the agency using those skills; I just remember the elation of passing a real typing test outside of my sister’s and my dad’s realms. And a feeling that I’d somehow cheated the system by not wasting a high school credit on a typing course so that I could take the art classes I loved as my electives.
Eventually, my dad retired the old Underwood, packed it carefully, and put it in the attic. I don’t know what happened to it or if it is still in the family. It was long gone when we cleared out the house my parents lived in for over 50 years. But I remember him and his business and above all his integrity, and of course I remember my sister who went before me in the typing adventure. And who could forget the faithful black beast that helped me escape high school typing class!