Apr 27, 2006

Nightmare on Penmanship Street

My handwriting is awful. I flunked penmanship from 1st grade through 7th grade, when the powers that be (or was it the best and the brightest? Can't read my notes. . .) at my junior high school finally cried uncle.

My first real full time job was as a telephone operator at Pacific Northwest Bell. We had to carefully hand write some toll tickets by hand so that the primitive OCR software at the time could read the data. My accuracy rate was around 80% because of my ham-fisted penmanship. Fortunately for me, about a month before I was hired, PNB removed the 95% toll ticket accuracy requirement to get a transfer or promotion. Otherwise, I would probably still be stuck in some call center somewhere, asking why you're late with your credit card payment.

My handwriting is so bad, sometimes even I can't read my own writing.

The IBM Selectric with that backspace error correction function saved my career. Don't get me wrong, I only type 30 words per minute using all the wrong fingers. (What? You're supposed to use more than 4 fingers?) But being able to correct my typing errors on the fly? Heaven!

Computer keyboards were just the ticket, nice big keys, spellcheck in software programs like Word Perfect and Word, even e-mail programs! Woo Hoo!

Then came something only a 7th grade penmanship teacher could sadistically enjoy.. the Palm Pilot and that screwy writing system. Now, not only did I have to learn the Palm method of screwy penmanship, but I had to do it with a tiny stylus!.

But I beat the odds. I was better at using that tiny Palm stylus and the goofy Palm Pilot cursive writing system than I was with a pen and paper! (7th grade penmanship teacher, neeah neah).

But now, the modern communication gods have thrown another obstacle in front of my escape from manual fingered dexterity: The Blackberry.

The Blackberry is a horrid invention only slightly worse than the requirement to only color between the lines with your Crayolas(another skill I never mastered). The alphabetic keys on this sucker are smaller than the end of a Starbucks coffee stirrer. You have the option of an "intuitive" kind of typing, where the Blackberry gives you several "Wheel of Fortune" options of the word you're trying to spell. And it won't let you buy a vowel!

The other typing option for the Blackberry enables you to click a key once for the first letter, or clicking twice for the second letter. For instance, "Q" and "W" are on the same key. This typing option turns you into the wireless operator on your very own Wi-Fi Titanic, double clicking your e-mail text out before you hit the thumb cramp iceberg.

At least I can use the Blackberry to actually CALL someone and TALK to them. With a human voice, with all the subtle inflections. Aah the humanity.

And now I'm realizing the great irony of this entire blog. Behold, even as I lament the loss of true human conversation, I have become the destroyer of human conversation! I am a blogger!

Seventh Grade penmanship teachers everywhere will sleep soundly tonight, knowing that my nightmare continues. . .

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