A Qwerty way to make a living
What was wrong with sending a memo?....Old school pal still has in her possession a copy of our Pitman shorthand textbook. Flicking through its pages had a feel of Indiana Jones about it, reading symbolic images, seemingly holding a magical, secret language. Sadly, we agreed that we have both lost the skill of this amazing speed-writing method, but we had, at least, once been competent in the art. Pal, certainly, gained a huge speed-per-minute technique, before the digital age took grip.
I remember her desk, in our early days of employment. Old typewriters and all the other desk-ware objects took up the space of a small box-room. Take a look at the average working space now….miniscule, by comparison, as if we are gradually shrinking, and disappearing?...At our training desks, on our intensive, short-hand typing course, the clatter of 30+ sit-up-and-beg Smith-Corona typewriters were louder than an air-squadron, returning from battle. The sound of expletives, as our typewriter keys stuck together, in those early days, accompanied our training exercises, too. I speak for myself, by the way, pal, and other pals, acquired the shorthand-typing skills much faster than I did, but I did, eventually.
We had tough teachers. Fiercely competent ex-PAs to CEOs (any problems with the acronyms?), who had turned to teaching for reasons no-one could fathom, would bark at us, only just refraining from smacking our knuckles with rulers. Thankfully, this was the progressing 1970s, and corporal punishment was up there with apartheid as a human travesty, so, although spared physical pain (the key-work gave sore finger-tips anyway), disapproving looks and remonstrations provided same level of agony.
Thus, the age of the slow-moving communication seems, on reflection, a relaxing time to be part of an organisation. The post-room boy (why always a male role, parcels were never so heavy that frail, fragrant ladies could not handle them?) would deliver the internal post system, twice per day, bringing those tiny envelopes, which told their tale of voyage around, or between, the building(s). Memo envelopes had scratch-off windows, re-useable until no further space could be found. If you wanted to play ‘organisational detective’, you could track back for month as to where the envelope had been. You can tell that I had time on my hands, or lacked concentration, or both?
Now, we send the digital cousin of memo - the email. We demand an instant reply and feel insulted and excluded if our message is not read and responded to in nanoseconds. By contrast, a gentle memo would be sent off, on its tour around the business, and a reply would not be expected for some time. Did we follow-up the memo with a telephone call, if no reply came after a reasonable delay? I think so, but not certain.
With the resurgent interest in the purchase of vinyl records, the purchase of mechanical typewriters has never completely disappeared, either, even the younger generations can be nostalgic, for things they never owned originally. I loved my portable Smith-Corona, purchased for me by my utterly supportive father. He was relieved that, at least, I could always support myself with office-work, if my bid to be ruler of the Western world did not transpire. Thus, at least, even with the digital keyboard, such skills are transferable, so, 40 years too late, let me say thank you, Dad.