Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Typewriter

What snaps when pushed, clicks when you feed it, and dings at the end? A very hormonal me? Except I don't recall clicking when I eat. The real answer is a manual typewriter.

The other day my mother rushes in my house (never with the intention of staying) and with no certain purpose except to tell me she was cleaning out her closets and drops off a square hard case by the front door. Instantly I recognize it as her childhood Royal Quiet De Luxe Typewriter circa 1950. I could not even get coffee into her mouth or offer her a biscotti and she was out the door and back in her car. Kind of befuddled but interested, I open the familiar box and a swell of smells and memories came back to me. I can remember sitting at this very machine (green, metallic and cold to the touch) planning to write my great american novel when I was in the 6th grade. I would put carbon paper in the roller and ambitiously plan to have 2 copies of my novel ready to publish. My novel was always kind of a Pippy Longstocking adventure that took place in New York City. With so much to see and write about I never got very far, but I just loved seeing the words appear magically on the paper as I typed.

That same afternoon, my son walks through the door with the fall sun behind him and we chat about his day at school. He begins to tells me about a big book report soon due (something he is dragging his feet on). I take this as my prompt and I suddenly jump up and run to the front door and bring the box. I told him Grandma had brought a present for him. " A laptop computer?" he says. I open the box and he could hardly contain himself. Who would have thought this machine would have set off a litany of questions about ink, the American Typewriter font, the mechanical workings, and on and on. He took the box and put it on his lap ( hold over from his laptop days) and snapped away. There was no ink in the typewriter so we decide right there and then to take a ride downtown and visit the store, Los Altos Typewriter and Business Machines, that is so famous for all things that type. The owner, John, is a passionate man for these beauties and gave my son the thumbs up after replacing the ribbon ink on his "new"typewriter and off we went.

As soon as we were home, he disappeared into his bedroom, placed the box on his desk, and closed his bedroom door. I heard the "clicking" of paper being fed into the rollers, the "snap" of the keys and always the "ding" signaling to return the carriage to begin the next line. The rest of the afternoon I felt energized as I heard the familiar sounds down the hall, the snap, click and ding of my 6th grade son writing his next novel or book report?

An interesting side story to this typewriter is the missing typeface on one of the type bars. My father, when he was a young mechanical engineering student at Berkeley used my mother's typewriter but was easily frustrated by any machine failing to meet his needs. Unfortunately, not even a simple typewriter could escape his furor. In the not too distant future, this frustration would extend to computers ( but let's keep it simple here). So, his frustration was not being able to correct his mistakes on the fly without stopping and using some goopy white out or little strips of paper to correct his typo mistakes. Mind you, this is in the 1950's so there were some keys on the typewriter that were more expendable than others. So he filed down the @ on the typebar and made it smooth hoping to transform it into a correction key. Whoa, what was he thinking? If he only knew he was wiping out the single most iconic character that would someday transform his future grandson's life.

1 comment:

rebecca said...

Okay - your family never ceases to amaze me. My daughter would take one look at it, then look at me, and say something like "okaaay...so can we make jewelry out of the keys or something?".....