Like many women in my age cohort (but not as many men), I took typing as an elective course in high school. The only reason I signed up for a typing class was that it was offered early in the morning, which allowed me to end classes an hour earlier than the customary end of the school day, so that I could work. I instantly regretted this decision after discovering typing was not easy and certainly not suited for me. In the mid 1970s, there were clear career choices: one either went to college or one went to work after high school. I knew I was college bound and thus, wrongly believed I would one day have a secretary (as administrative assistants were then referred to) who would do all of my typing. I resisted learning how to type well, instead, spending most of the class period contemplating career choices that would guarantee a secretary would do my typing. For many years, this typing avoidance strategy worked well. I had a secretary in graduate school (because I was fortunate to have a major professor with grant money to pay for one); I had a secretary in my first professional job after receiving my doctorate; and I had a series of secretaries in the 20 or so years that passed in my career. It was not until relatively recently that my spouse/business partner and I decided not to employ anyone in the secretarial, administrative, or office manager capacities. In our small organization, this job became obsolete because everyone began to type their own reports and correspondence (as well as the fact that the phone rarely rings because most clients retain us via email or other Internet methods). I still take copious notes in handwriting when I am meeting with a client, participating in a telephone conference with a client, or selecting a jury, however, when possible, I type the reports my company sends to our clients. I have come full circle on typing, from typing avoidance to the avoidance of paying a secretary or other clerical staff to do something that anyone, including me, can do with a little help from the computer.
And though Melissa’s QWERTY skills are not as strong as they would have been if she had persisted in that typing class, as I did, she’s pretty fast, and accurate as well. I persevered in my typing class and, though I wasn’t the fastest typist in the class (I think I remember who was), typing has proven to be one of those skills that paid off, even in ways none of us foresaw in the days before personal computing, much less virtual keyboards on personal phones or tablets – those were the stuff of futuristic fantasy. But, learning how to format a document, and type without looking at the keys has paid off more than I imagined. I knew I had to get through college and perhaps more. I didn’t know I’d spend time with some sort of keyboard from morning until night. Sometimes we get ahead without knowing our actions will help us do so.