During the past month or so, I’ve been tormented by IT malfunctions. The breakdowns themselves were unpleasant enough; frustrations with repairs made matters worse – so much worse I’ve considered going computer and smart phone free. I know someone who did that, but she was so afflicted with age that absence of electronic necessities didn’t affect her as much as it would someone who remains engaged with the day-to-day stuff of living. She still had bills to pay and official communications to respond to, of course, but they were written on pieces of paper and delivered by a postperson, and her family took care of their demands. She had a cell phone, but it was not smart, and to my knowledge, she used it only to call out.
Everyone of a certain age once lived without computers and cell phones, and lately, I’ve had a taste of it again. Both my laptop and my smartphone, which I normally depend on the way a scuba diver depends on an air hose, broke down. Many people have more than one computer and supplementary iPads and such, but I don’t. I resent the expense of having even one; on principle, I refuse to buy a spare.
The local tech repair company sent my laptop to a place where better geeks gather. I imagine something like a techie leper colony whose inmates jabber about coding and such in a language not spoken by normal humans. And then, during the ten days my machine was gone, my phone malfunctioned.
I went through some, though not all, the classic stages of grief – I got stuck on pissed-off and depressed, and I never got even close to acceptance. This cold-turkey weaning bothered me especially in that it prevented me from following my writing habit. You might think that’s not a big loss, but it is to me. If I do not make daily entries in my diary and write Geezer essays, it is as if I have not lived. I don’t like feeling that way.
That’s when I had an idea, which – if I could do it – would lead me out of darkness into the sunny light of day. I would write in longhand. Over the years, when I’ve had to, I made diary entries in longhand. As time has passed, my handwriting has become astonishingly illegible, but that doesn’t matter much. I seldom look at past diary entries other than as a memory aid. What was the name of that restaurant we liked in Istanbul in 2006? When I’ve puzzled through more than particular items, the entries have struck me as embarrassingly egocentric (where were the careful observations of current events?) and of little interest – even to me. My point is that if I had sometimes made diary entries in longhand, I should be able to write a Geezer essay that way.
It would be like what we did over and over in high school English class., an exercise I performed well enough to get high marks and positive regard. Maybe I still could.
To help with the problem of illegibility, I would channel my dad. He wrote legibly and gracefully despite working with his hands – hard hat, steel-toed safety boots, khakis – until he was almostmanaged fifty. (I’ve never understood how he could be both people.) I found the fountain pen I’d bought years ago when he was on my mind. It’s like the one Daddy used – a brown Shaeffer. I went to Staples for ink. Staples didn’t sell it; the clerks seemed unsure what ink was. I found a small container of Parker brand for seventeen dollars at an old-fashioned stationery shop.
That done, nothing remained but to start writing – slowly and carefully. It’s more difficult than I remembered. I shopped for cursive instruction manuals, which, by the way, seemed to me to be in the same elevated price tranche as ink. But before I went very far down that road, my laptop came back from tech ICU. The repair was unsatisfactory, but workarounds and occasional profanity make it work well enough so that you are not receiving this essay in a longhand facsimile. I feel relieved.
Thank you Paul for another great “rumination”! I have missed reading your essays! Glad to hear your computer is at leat partially functional again. Keep ‘em coming!
I always made sure that my students wrote in longhand as well as type. Each method uses different parts of the brain. It took me a long time to be able to compose on a computer. I would write longhand and then type it out. It eventually came easily, but I think something is lost.
Sandy writes her long emails out in long hand and then puts it on the lap tap. We should have taken the short hand class in high school along with typing.
Hey Dean! I did shorthand at a Commercial College and it was Pitman and which I still resort to at times, if I’m at a conference or have to jot down something quickly so as to remember it. Very difficult lines to learn but after all the struggles to master it, I can still read/transcribe a few paragraphs, and especially that that’s now a thing of the past!
It is clear that keyboarding, writing longhand, and dictating are all different experiences, probably using different parts of the brain. I know that writing a beloved poem out longhand makes it feel different. It is also clear that when we learn a specific skill, we learn sub-skills unknowingly. For example, in high school I learned to sew, and made much of my own clothing. What I didn’t know at the time was that I was learning how to judge the quality of a store-bought garment.
I post on a publishing platform, and have created my pieces mostly by dictating directly into the computer. I gather that’s what famous people did in the old days when there were scribes. My handwriting is noticeably worse than it was years ago. I am wondering whether young people can even read text written out in longhand.
Hi Ho Geezer!!! I missed you! So happy it’s all about this darn electronic equipment that have taken over our existence like nothing other! I feel your pain though and am with you in longhand writing. My dad was a carpenter and had rough hands like your dad’s and, also, a lefty, and he wrote Olde English Style to the day he died! I loved it and while I was not as good as him, I had my flare just the same which, thankfully, I still have today. But I’m rather fascinated with the Parker Pen/Ink debacle you experienced. $17.00 for a bottle of ink the young ones have no idea what that is!! At my time in school, the desks were made with ink wells and nib pen holder dips!! We had to dip the pen in the ink to write!!! Just like the Kings, Barristers and Solicitors did in the olde days!! “Fountain Pens” that one could actually pull the ink into the pen, ala Schaffer/Parker, and write until it’s empty then refill it, came way, way after “Nib Pens!” Most kids and young ones today, have no idea what “penmanship is!” I have a grandchild on the way and I certainly will be introducing the art of handwriting to him at the appropriate time. Glad you are back and looking forward to you essays!
Your column struck a chord or two with me. First I get frustrated when I try a new task on my I-phone, as I use it for all things electronic. Secondly on the subject of Dad, my Dad was a WW Two veteran serving on a B-24 Liberator in the Pacific Theater. Upon returning to Saranac Lake he worked in physically demanding jobs finally retiring as electrician at Whiteface Mt. His writing and printing remained impeccable even into his seventies. This can most likely be traced back to the Nuns at St. Bernards School.
There were four offspring. Me being the youngest and only boy and three older sisters. My most senior sister inherited Dads printing and cursive skills, another St. Bernards grad, and whose calligrophy skills remain untouched by age. A local merchant stopped while walking one day to tell me how he was so impressed with her penmanship skills as she still pays bills using checks.
Good luck with the electronics and only use burial as a last resort for those devices!
Miles Van Nortwick
If you haven’t seen this video before, click on this for an amusing several minutes.
That is really funny and quite affirming for us old people. It’s wonderful to know that Geekyy kids have tech limits.