“You should learn how to touch type.” She said it again. The air hung quietly heavy with those words that seemed to scratch across the chalkboard. “Touch type? Me? Are you serious?” I awkwardly avoided it again. For the seventieth time, I dodged my wife’s attempts to get me to learn how to type like a normal typer, instead of the hunt and peck system which I had come to know and get by with.
I was satisfied with having to look at the keypad all the time. I was satisfied trying to write an email with no capital letters, commas, apostrophes, or any of the other ways to type normally. It was all lower case, and it was all good, and I was used to it. It didn’t matter if I couldn’t keep up with the chat rooms persistent scrolling, or if most folks couldn’t understand my abbreviations with words, it just didn’t matter, that is, until I found out that if I was going to be able to use the computer at all, I would have to rely on the keypad alone, and the fact that if I was going to attend the Carroll center, learning to touch type was one of the criteria. Everything I knew about the computer went flying out the window, along with my vision. It all changed, and I had to change if I was ever going to use the computer again. Everything changed, and I had no choice but to change, right along with it.
All of my usual, comfortable traits abruptly came to a halt that summer morning in 2010, and everything screeched to a mucked up, muddled mess of confusion and uncomfortable unfamiliarity.
Is that even a word?
Well, if it ain’t, it should be.
The first experience I had with my new way of using computers came when my wife and I went to Augusta, and were introduced to Steve Sawczyn, who was an assistive technology instructor for the State of Maine. He instantly found his way into my world, and instantly fascinated my wife as well. You see, he is blind, like me, and he represented all things possible, which was page one in the first edition of the handbook of my brand new life. He represented all that was available out there, and he represented all of the hard work that was standing in the way of me, and page two. He instantly caught the attention of my wife as he quickly took out his laptop and started flying through the keypad. He went from a Mac operating system, to a windows platform, on the same laptop, in the blink of a keystroke. He did something else that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around. He made his computer talk to him. He made his computer talk so fast, I thought I was going to explode with anxiety. He made it all look, and sound so easy though, as he sped his way through the menus and dialogue boxes and drop down lists and everything else that I had no idea about. He impressed me, and scared the hell out of me, and made me mad, and thankful, and grateful, and humiliated and frustrated and hopeful and sad and happy and the exhilarated speed of anxiety reached even higher levels the first time he came to our home with his ever amazing new world. It was a new world, but I quickly learned that it was a new world that was right there, at the tip of my fingers.
I dove head first into my mew, unfamiliar, emotional adventure into a strange, new, digitally dark world. I knew where the flashlight was, but I had to figure out which key command would take me to it. It was a nerve wracking experience that was both amazingly enlightening, and incredibly frightening. I knew what I wanted to do with the computer, I just couldn’t see what was on the screen anymore, and it made me mad as hell. I was mad as hell, but I was also fully aware that with an attitude of anger, I would not be able to go anywhere, and I would end up being a shivering puddle of misguided me. This, as I finally convinced myself, was not a viable option at all.
I sit here today, and I am able to tell you that I did learn how to touch type, and with this new learned tool, my writing exploded out onto the monitor, one page at a time. All of the stuff swirling around in my head found its way onto the screen, and page after page, day after day, I have kept on writing. Most times, I have no idea where all of this key punching will take me, but it does, in fact, take me. It takes me here, and there, and way over there, and snaps me right back here again. It takes me inside my head, out through the fields, back in time, ahead into the future, here at home, into my childhood bedroom, through the halls of my grade school, across town, down to the coast, up into the mountains, and in through the emotions of my past. It does all of this, with the simple touch of a key. It does all this, through my fingertips.
I joke sometimes about writing things, and then when I go back and read through the piece, it’s like I am reading it for the first time. I know my memory is shot, and my brain stem is waterlogged, and I just don’t remember things sometimes, but this is different. This is sort of like an outer body experience. It’s like I have climbed into the pc and pulled out something someone else wrote. I actually think that I am possessed sometimes. Probably due to either too much chocolate, or not enough chocolate. I think the latter is more than likely.
That’s it. Now, I’m thinking about a bag of Hershey’s mini’s in the freezer.
And now I’m back.
Where was I?
Oh yes, I got it.
I recently, in the last couple days, finished a fiction novel that I started writing back in the fall of 2011. This venture has taken me places that I never dreamed of. It’s a novel full of my memories of places, and people, and events, and just things in general. It’s a novel full of me, and as I wrote it, I actually rediscovered things about my past that caused me to laugh, cry, and get filled up with some of the same emotions that raced through me as a young man. It showed me many of my emotions that poured out of me, onto the screen. It told me many different stories that I had no idea were inside of me. It told and showed me a side of me that I had always felt comfortable with, but usually tended to overlook. It raced out of me, around the room, and fell onto the screen. It was a marvelous adventure that I had been waiting fifty two years for. It was part of me, and I became part of it.
I’m not sure what I am going to do with this amazing thing that I’ve typed, but one thing is for sure, I will never forget the story, nor the experience of writing it, and if that’s all I ever get done with it from here on out, then I am much more the better because of it, and have no regrets what so ever.
I never know where my typing will take me. I never know what’s around the next space bar, or the next shift key, or the next comma, or quotation mark. I never know what is going to be at the bottom of the page, but I do know, that if I hadn’t learned how to touch type, there wouldn’t be anything at the bottom of the page.