Typing class came with strict rules

While working on a recent story and, as per usual, getting my fingers tangled in the keyboard, it dawned on my nearly 70-year-old brain that I’ve been typing since I was 13. (And boy, are my fingers tired.) Sorry, had to get that obvious joke out of the way.

Bob Rodriguez
Bob Rodriguez

Seriously though (mostly), my freshman high school class in San Diego underwent typing instruction from a rather uptight young teacher whose life focused on a roomful of manual typewriters. At the first day in his class he warned us about being kind to our typewriters, which I thought was a bit weird. But he was serious.

First, we were forbidden to remove the covers from our machines until he gave explicit permission. Second, we were not to touch any of the keys. Unless he granted dispensation to proceed. Third, we were never, never to type without his full and clearly expressed OK. Even then we could be in trouble if we neglected to have two pieces of paper inserted — one to protect the roller, the other for whatever we were going to type. With permission, of course.

At last the day arrived. We were allowed to remove the typewriter covers. Wow, I was so impressed. In fact I forgot his intense admonition about touching any keys. So I pushed the Tab key. Amazing. The roller and carriage slid south with a satisfying zzzzzzzzzzzzzz and there was a solid thunk as they came to rest accompanied by a bell that dinged. The rest of the class seemed stunned at my audacity and there were a few nervous laughs.

Then there was nearly a solid thunk on my head as the irate teacher came thundering down the aisle to my desk. He sputtered about violating the rules and ordered me to go stand in the corridor outside the classroom. Dang. I was so ready to type.

Eventually I was allowed back in and spent several days learning the keyboard beginning with the home keys: a, s, d, f and j, k, l, ; for starters. The g and the h followed soon, as did the e and eventually the z and x, although I had to train my left little finger for those last two. I even learned how to properly use the Tab key.

We practiced quite a bit, especially, “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog’s back.” Over and over. Then we graduated to other typing exercises and I knew that my fate was sealed. I really liked and still like typing. It must be my character for the characters.

I can type fairly rapidly, especially on deadline. But I’ve seen other newsmen, especially sports writers, who never learned or learn the “right way” to type. They use their index fingers and truly some of them are faster than those of us who learned the home keys and never have to look at any of the keys to se eff we arr on the poprer kys.

After manual typewriters came electric typewriters followed by PCs. I must say that it’s easier to type on a PC keyboard vs. a manual typewriter and that PCs make it so easy to correct typing errors. Many out there might remember typewriter erasers and “white out” to fix our mistakes. Of course, PCs also have made it easy to lose an hour’s worth of work when the wrong key (not Tab) is pushed. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

So I’ve been typing stories, columns and captions for some 56 years with no idea of how many words that amount of pounding amounts to. My feeling is that I’m going to keep merrily depressing the keys until someone orders me to stop and go stand in the corridor.

By Bob Rodriguez