May 24, 2023
During our bimonthly meeting, writing club members read stories they have submitted for our Potpourri Project. Club secretary Teresa Pepper asked us to continue sending our work to be included in this anthology. Because I am focused on revising the fourth novel of my family saga, I looked for something I’d written that could be quickly modified and submitted. I hope you enjoy this humorous short story as I poke fun at myself.
I need to make a confession. I have always admitted that I am a “bookaholic.” Oh yes, I know the proper term is bibliophile. But, somehow, I think words with the -phile suffix have a sinister connotation. Maybe it’s because of the word pedophile. Or the fact that some people take their love to an extreme, like an ailurophile who has 30 cats. Anyway, it’s time for me to admit another long addiction. I’m addicted to clicks! Does that make me a clickophile?
My fixation began when I took a typing course in high school during the late 1960s. Like a drill sergeant our teacher conducted us. “Posture is everything. Back straight. Feet level on the floor. Roll a sheet of paper into the machine. Now, put your fingers on the home row. Keep your eyes on your textbook, not your fingers! Each stroke should be brisk and firm. Begin.”
Little did I realize the sound these ancient Underwood typewriters produced would become habitual. Each click was music to my ears. At first it wasn’t words which appeared on the paper. Instead, it was gibberish, such as “asdf” and “jkl semicolon,” repeated over and over. My typing staccato was very brief. Click clack, click clack, click clack. Then a ding! as I used the carriage return.
At first it was difficult to type with brisk and firm taps on the keys as she had directed. I sometimes pressed them too quickly. Click, cluck, crunch! The keys crashed together and stuck in mid-air. Snick, snick as I cleared the jam, then returned my fingers to the home row. Over time I built up strength in a muscle that I didn’t know my little fingers had. I spent weeks clickety-clacking nonsense before I typed my first word.
Our teacher placed a metronome on her desk to assist us with learning the cadence of this instrument. After several weeks of practice, I caught onto the tempo and became adept at typing, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”. This had a good beat; my fingers could dance to it!
I encountered an electric typewriter in my second year of typing class. Using a lighter touch allowed it to be played at accelerando speed. My typing skills increased to 80 words per minute as I mastered this piece. While it didn’t clack, each key stroke produced a comforting click as the “golf ball” whirled at break-neck speed.
Learning to run a 10-key adding machine even satisfied my click craving as its allegro joined my repertoire. I could run tapes that were six feet long without making a mistake that marred my tempo. Of course, this was back when this # symbol meant a number sign, not a hash tag.
Working at a water company, a mainframe computer was the next instrument on the scene. The 96-column card, keypunch machine had its own special composition. But I had to first master the numerical keypad. Its numbers were arranged like those on a push-button phone—backwards to an adding machine. At first it had a cacophonic sound as I learned a new rhythm. However, it wasn’t long before my fingers bebopped up and down the keyboard making a different kind of music. Clickety click, clickety clack, clickety click, clickety clack, clickety click. Then psst, tick, psst, tick, whizt, tunk as holes were punched into the card while it whizzed through the rollers and into a hopper.
With the advent of memory typewriters and word processors, the rhythm changed. Ctrl, Alt, and function keys were added to the ensemble. My fingers could still tap dance to a good beat and always return to the home row.
Personal computers of the 1980s brought discord to my harmony. Why did they say the mouse was “point and click”? This sound is too quiet to be called a click! It didn’t satisfy me. Instead, the need to move my right hand to use it annoyed me. But the pressed keys still made a clicking sound, and I learned to feel for the home row indicators as my hand moved back from using the mouse. Over the decades of my life, you could say, I became a maestro of clickety clacking.
As you have probably experienced yourself, it’s not long before a computer becomes outdated or even dies. The newer models do come with added features. Yet, over the years, these keyboards became made more of plastic and much less metal. These have also shrunk in size. For several decades now, I’ve used an old Compaq 386 keyboard with keys that click. It shows years of heavy usage, even though this console has been thoroughly cleaned numerous times. It is past time for it to be retired with honors. Do you think it would appreciate receiving a gold watch?
My recently purchased computer has a USB instead of a pin plug for the keyboard. Its keys are plastic and smushed together. I had to search to find the delete key when I first installed this device. In my opinion its design is flawed because I cannot conduct any musical score on this contraption. So, I splurged on a mechanical keyboard even though I’m not a gamer. Yes, I must confess, I gotta have my click!