Thursday, June 29, 2006


The most important skill I learnt at high school was typing. Who, at the end of the Swinging Sixties, would have known how important it was to acquire the skill of finding your way quickly around a keyboard using all eight fingers and the occasional thumb?

And being able to do it without having to look at the keys!

Our typing teacher was an older woman called Miss Jones. Miss Jones was a tiny feminine thing who persevered with her Veronica Lake hairdo a couple of decades longer than she should have done so.

I always felt that Miss Jones disliked our class of uncooperative and uncouth teenage girls. Looking back though, perhaps Miss Jones was merely disenchanted with her career choice and she was weary of chanting:

“a s d f g f space ; l k j h j space”

and adding the occasional:

“Sit like ladies. Put those big clodhopper shoes together!”

Learning to type wasn’t a priority for most of the girls in my class. Their main aim at school was to evade the head mistress and her tape measure. If Mrs. Godfrey thought your skirt length was questionable, she would make you kneel so that she could measure the length of your hemline. Fortunately, hemlines could be easily manipulated by hoisting the skirt up over the uniform belt.

Well, it was the era of the mini skirt and we were far too cool to adhere to her matronly hem length.

One of my many jobs where I used my skill involved typing up insurance policies. I was assigned to an insurance clerk who would arrange the policy details with the customers and then pass the information on to me to type it into a large official blue form.

It was a repetitive and not overly taxing job leaving me plenty time to daydream about the upcoming weekend.

One day a co-worker told me that my assigned clerk had said that he didn’t really need to check my typing because I never made an error.

This was not quite true. If my clerk had looked a little closer at the forms he would have found that I did make errors, constantly, but I had a little tool called a typewriter rubber. This thin flat disk shaped device was a cross between a pencil rubber and sandpaper. And, if you weren’t overzealous whilst angrily scrubbing away at that wrong keystroke, you could replace your error with the right letter on the now furry spot on the form. Too much scrubbing resulted in a hole in the paper and then you had to begin again.

Overtime the typewriter rubber evolved from a disk into a pencil shape with a handy little brush at the end for brushing away the rubber crumbs and the paper dust.

Human ingenuity resulted in someone inventing correction fluid so that now we could paint over our mistakes. We girls took to this with great enthusiasm as we were very deft at using tiny paint brushes due to our love of fingernail polish.

Another invention to come to our rescue was a dry correction product which was like white carbon paper. It came in handy little strips which we would place over the wrong letter, smack it with the same keystroke again, and the letter would magically disappear, that is, providing you were using white typing paper.

The best correction method arrived in the form of the computer with its word processing software.

Ah, only a typist would know the joy I receive as I utilise the backspace and delete keys.

It was whilst working for that insurance company that I developed another skill. Through laziness, I memorised all the postcodes of Queensland. Fortunately, our customers were only from the state of Queensland.

I boasted to the abovementioned co-worker that I didn’t need to look at a postcode book because I had memorised the numbers. He scoffed. I told him to test my skill. He did. I got them all right. He was most impressed.

If the quiz show “The Einstein Factor” had been on television back in those days, then I would have been a certain winner.

I can just hear Peter introducing the contestants:

“Meet Claude whose speciality is the complete poems of Emily Dickinson.”

Respectful applause from the audience.

“Meet Joyce whose speciality is Australian cricket players since 1788.”

Enthusiastic applause from the audience.

“Meet Michelle whose speciality is postcodes from the state of Queensland, Australia.”

Sporadic applause followed by mumbles of derision.

I won’t be testing this skill though. Clearly, Queensland was a much less populated state back in the early ‘70s and therefore required fewer postcodes than are necessary today.

But I do continue to use my original skill for work and pleasure. The arrival of the computer and the Internet has meant that most people need to find their way around that curious arrangement of letters on the ever evolving keyboard.

I wonder what Miss Jones would have thought about these technological advances and about the fact that she was eventually replaced by a software programme.

But, right now, I feel the need to test my original skill. I am off to to see just how quick and accurate I am at getting about my keyboard.

Michelle ©

Tuesday, June 20, 2006