Hunt and Peck (February 15, 2011)

When I think about it, there’s really no good excuse for my condition. I went through primary school in the 1980s, when American culture exploded in its contemplation of the personal computer’s applications. There was no concept of the Internet when I entered kindergarten in 1983, but I had a fair amount of exposure to the PC in those years: a glorified word processor at home, archaic computer game play with my friends (Jeopardy! The Oregon Trail!) and lessons in basic DOS as a part of grammar school curriculum.

And yet somehow, I never learned to type. Oh I am typing now, and obviously I get by. What I mean is that I am incapable of doing so the “right” way. After 25 years of loquacious communications, I have a confession to make: I am a hunt and pecker.

Mind you, and I don’t like to brag, but I am the quickest draw there is. I may look down at the keyboard whilst I produce words, but my fingers fly over the numbers and letters like a concert pianist. The only real problem to this point has been the noise. I drill the keyboard like I am in the middle of a World War II blitzkrieg, typing out a potentially life saving SOS message, but when you work around me, it quickly becomes common white noise. I have survived 21 years of formal education (including a Master’s in English Literature), 11 years in the corporate/nonprofit world and two years as a freelance writer and blogger. I can interview subjects with a phone expertly balanced between my ear and my shoulder while I type furiously.

This never bothered me before. It was one of my charming idiosyncrasies, or so I liked to believe. Anyone can type correctly. How boring.

I was completely unselfconscious about my quirk until yesterday, the first day on the job at a small publishing firm. Anyone who has checked in with me the last four months knows all about my unemployment saga, the self-flagellation I publicly engaged in over fear that I would never work with my words, that I had chosen my life’s dream rather poorly, that I was condemned to a life of thankless freelance hustling (emphasis on the “free”). Well through a mixture of networking, patience (?) and highly practiced interviewing, I finally secured a full-time web writer and editor position with a highly respected financial guru. There’s so much to learn as I remain a relative newbie to the journalism/publishing worlds, but I have finally have my shot.

I showed up Day 1 determined to impress. There are so many diverse and demanding projects into which I will eventually sink my teeth. The new boss made it clear that a three month learning curve is expected, but I will do all I can to ensure that timeline is shortened. I can’t endure feeling out of my element for that long. I was ready to be confused, overwhelmed, possibly even a little panicked. What I was not prepared for was a sharp indictment of my sub-par typing abilities.

The new boss stood over my shoulder while I formatted a press release, an experience inherently designed to create discomfort, and her words took me completely off guard: “We are going to have to do something about your typing. There are plenty of classes and online tutorials.”

Slightly stunned and embarrassed, I began to protest that my unorthodox style had served me well to this point, but I was shut down immediately with a challenge: “Well we can do a test. If you can produce 150 words per minute, I’m good.”

I politely declined and it seems therefore that I will have to learn the proper method of word processing. I am the proverbial old dog tasked to learn a new trick. I expected many, many deficiencies to show themselves in this training period and usually do a terrific job of cataloguing anticipated flaws before they can be pointed out. I do not want this stupid issue to stand between me and publishing success


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