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May 13, 2022

Are You Ready to Contribute to My “Thumb Drive”?

We should have texting lessons available to us

By Ed Goldman

Dear Readers, Relatives and Anyone Else Who’s Ever Had the Misfortune to Land on a Kickstarter Mailing List:

I’m hoping to raise funds for a campaign I’m calling the Thumb Drive: an effort to have thumb-typing classes added to high school curricula.

Edgy Cartoon

Thumb objects may appear larger

In this text-driven era, the digits that some people don’t consider to be “real” fingers have become essential tools to miscommunicate with bosses, peers, friends, spouses and children. 

One of the only regrets of my life is that I never took a typing class. (If you must know, the others are that I never wore chinos and could have had a V-8.) Typing wasn’t required in my school and when there was something in my school I didn’t have to do, I simply didn’t.

This isn’t to say I wouldn’t have taken elective courses, as long as they had zero chance of improving my academic standing, eventual earning potential and contribution to the commonwealth.

For instance, neither drama nor journalism were required classes in high school, so naturally, I immersed myself in both. And I’m proud to report that neither of those pursuits ever resulted in my financial solvency, domestic stability and a deluge of invitations to join Mensa.

Had I taken typing, though, it would have unquestionably improved my dexterity at the keyboard, whether writing plays, articles, books or this very column.

To this day I remain a two-fingered typist. But a pretty fast one. In fact, when I was working on my master’s degree at Cal State Fullerton in the mid-1970s, and started teaching in the department of communications, a secretary who saw me typing up a test one afternoon on an IBM Selectric. She thought it was so funny that my two fingers moved “with blurring velocity”—even the secretaries in that department were impressively articulate—that she arranged for the department’s fastest typist, whom they referred to as Jackrabbit Janice, to compete with me in a typing contest.

Strange as it may sound, I knew I had the advantage, both in speed and accuracy. That’s because my hunt-and-peck typing skill came to me in a baptism by fire.

It happened when I began my job as an intern-reporter on the news desk of the Long Beach Independent, Press-Telegram. I was 19 years old and had never typed anything under pressure (except for the occasional term paper that was due a couple of hours from when I first opened my parents’ World Book Encyclopedia to do my exhaustive research). Ergo, I’d never had to type all that quickly—and at a leisurely pace, when I made errors, I had plenty of time to fix them by using either the liquid BIC Wite-Out® or Eaton Allen KO-REC-TYPE Typewriter Correction Paper®. I’m hoping these product placements will net me a lovely box of office supplies.

But in my first week at the newspaper, I was asked to take dictation from a reporter covering the evidently explosive meeting of another county’s board of supervisors. In fact, the reporter, perhaps a tad marinated, only used to make the meetings he covered sound explosive so that the occasional incoherence of his ramblings could be attributed to his excitement at beating out the other area newspapers for his story—though nine times out of 10, ours was the only one that covered any of this particular group’s meetings. 

Anyway, the reporter dictated as though competing for a land speed record and I typed faster than I ever had, frequently causing the keys to lock themselves in balletic poses. But even when the keys froze into their not-uninteresting tableaux, the reporter continued to race along, throwing out bureaucratic terms with which I (and most of the civilian world) was unfamiliar. When at last he finished, I thought I heard a thud, which I deduced was either the pay phone slamming down on the receiver hook or the reporter passing out on the floor of the phone booth.

“Ya got it, kid?” the city editor asked, possibly smirking a bit. As I looked around the newsroom and saw a bunch of editors leaning forward or backward in their chairs to get a glimpse if my reaction, I knew I’d been set up. But I didn’t care. It felt as though I were being initiated into an exclusive club.

“Of course I got it,” I lied. “Will clean it up and have it to you in about 12 minutes.” Murmuring ensued among the editors. For all I knew they were handicapping the odds of my making that goal.

Why I had chosen “12 minutes” as that goal I’ll never know. Believe me, I’ve asked myself this a number of times in the intervening half-century since this incident occurred.

To make two long stories shorter, I managed to correct the story and get it to my editor in not much longer than 12 minutes (38, if you’re going to go all exacting on me) and, a few years later, I beat the Cal State Fullerton typist by a few seconds, though I have no idea what the content of the newspaper story or the typing contest was. And probably didn’t then, either. Kind of like most of the texts I send and receive. Please contribute what you can.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).