Sunday, February 27, 2011

A True Royal Story


I walk into this second-hand store,
second-hand when they actually
mean one slight cut above junk,
and just past the chairs
with ripped and ruined upholstery
is this dust-covered relic of youth.

I taught myself to type when I was 18,
it was June, because I had to know how
for journalism classes in the fall so I bought
an electric typewriter and
“Teach Yourself How to Type,”
an early birthday present.

I was a lousy teacher but I dutifully
sat for hours trying not to look
at the keys but I gave up, you know,
and turned hunt and peck
into a speed race for fingers
and I cheated and looked at all the keys.

I walk into Journalism 51; am overwhelmed
by a sea of manual typewriters, all
proudly bearing the name of Royal,
reigning in spite of the growing electric rebellion
of IBM Selectrics, Remingtons, Olivers,
Olivettis, Underwoods, and Smith-Coronas.

Insert yellow copy paper, learn
how to operate the carriage return
and teach your fingers how
to pound on keys like it was
some stress contest and it was stress,
no question about that.

Style error: automatic F;
spelling error: automatic F;
grammar error: automatic F;
punctuation error: automatic F;
all the while beating and slamming
the keys, Royal in their stubbornness.

And then this idiot of a teacher gives
a deadline assignment and starts
singing opera and performing
jumping jacks and using his desk
like a set of drums and how to work
with all this deliberate, focused insanity?

I look at this dust-covered Royal relic and
I don’t feel a tender fondness, exactly, but
more like profound thankfulness
for correctible spools of paper white-out
and the electricity that removed the pounding
from my fingers, still aching. I don't buy it.

This poem is submitted for One Shot Sunday sponsored by One Stop Poetry. To see other poems prompted by the photo, please visit the site.

Photograph by JackAZ Photography. Used with permission for One Stop Poetry.

21 comments:

Jerry said...

I wondered how a journalist would take this one. What did your wife have to say about this picture? Your prof sounded insane. No room for error...I would fail, epically.
Loved your response.

dustus said...

"I don't buy it" either, in particular the antic methods of that jackass teacher. Great poem, Glynn. Your sense of humor shines through in this one. You had me laughing when you said you were going to teacher yourself to type and then criticized your teacher ability. lol Also like how the repetition of F lines rhyme with stubbornness—clever pedagogical commentary.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Fabulous poem - and what a great journey into your beginnings as a journalist!

Very cool -- and lol -- I get why the prof did that, which is scary -- though it doesn't make it any 'nicer'! :) Off with his head I say!

Brian Miller said...

i am with dustus on this one...what a jerk...i probably would have happily failed...

Maureen said...

Glynn, you and I know so well what it was like to have to use the non-self-correcting typewriter, which I also had to use in my first reporting jobs and even in my first job in 1983 at the company from which I retired. We all went through a lot of carbons. The bests two functions on the computer are delete and backspace.

Claudia said...

i learned to type on an old fashioned typewriter as well...and glad there are computers nowadays...humorous write glynn

Melissa said...

I didn't read yours until after I wrote mine, so guess I view things through slightly rose-coloured glasses. I did learn to type on these clanky things in the very late 70s but thankfully was promoted to the new IBM Selectrics within a few months because I was fast. If you were slow, you remained on the manuals. There were only about six new ones. Oh yes, I remember the absolutes of being absolutely correct. Teachers must be much gentler these days. And oh how I agree with Maureen regarding backspace (or the beloved CTRL Z) and delete.

hedgewitch said...

With you all the way, Glynn. I have no nostalgia for the miserable experience of trying to make a crisp neatly typed sheet without white out and a thousand surreptitious overtypes. If I couldn't look at the keys I'd be typing in tongues--and I've never understood why stress is considered a motivator, either. Nice one.

repressedsoul said...

I'd be completely lost without a backspace key, tippex and now inbuilt dictionary. Although I also learned to type on one of these ladies. And oh, I still look at my fingers when I type!! thanks for sharing this story with us Glynn
x

Doug Spurling said...

Glynn, nice trip back in time. I thought you'd buy it though - and use it for a drum or target practice or drop it on that teachers front step or hood or... Maureen's so right about delete and backspace - if not for those and this electronic age - I don't suppose there would be a tree left standing - just a mountain of wrinkled up paper by my desk.

Gigi Ann said...

I loved your opening lines esp. 'when they actually mean one slight cut above junk,' Made me laugh out loud... that's how I feel about garage sales.. I loved your poem it brought back a lot of memories of typing classes. We had a cardboard with the typewriter keyboard on it, that we were suppose to practice on at home until we learn the keyboard without looking. I don't understand how that helped but it did. The first time I used an electric typewriter, I could hardly touch the keys and off it went ten aaaaaaaaa s in a row... ; )

Christine said...

Love it!

togetherforgood said...

My kids were asking about typewriters the other day-- asking if they would learn to type on one. I did, but it was an electric one, so at least we didn't have to pound so hard. My grandma had one of those old ones in her house and I loved to play on it-- but just play.

It's amazing how much things have changed since then. I love my laptop. I'm just saying. :)

nance marie said...

if i ever did buy it, i don't think i could lift it.

Reflections said...

Your teacher sounds as much a jerk as mine was, I think I did fail that one, or should have for ethical reasons... but that is a whole other story.

signed...bkm said...

I had a typing teacher named Mr. Pink...us girls would sing...Mr. Pink you Stink...but if it was not for him I would not have got the job that I stayed at for 30 years...so he taught me something..that fed me and my children for years....bkm

Michael said...

We sold one in my parents antique shop a few years back.

Glynn said...

I should probably say the journalism teacher in question turned out to be my favorite. I took three classes and two independent studies with him - he had more to do with shaping me and my writing than just about anyone else.

Kathleen Overby said...

Confession: I sometimes miss pulling the carriage bar
and the sounds so satisfying. And the ink that stamps itself INTO the paper. Does this call for reality therapy?

Steve Isaak said...

Solid, oh-so-relatable (for the grading bit) work.

JackAZ Photography said...

You've given me visions of Ed Asner teaching that class. Great story!