This Christmas season I got all nostalgic and I remembered one of my favorite Christmas present from the past. Don’t be surprised if this favorite gift of mine involves the restaurant. My thoughts brought me back to 1971 when I woke up on Christmas morning to find my very own typewriter underneath the Christmas tree and I bet you all thought I was going to say pots and pans. I was ecstatic! I went right to work practicing typing and learning where all the keys were located. I still remember the feeling of pressing down each key and the joy I felt as I witnessed the perfect black letter imprinted on the paper. I especially loved the rhythm of the typing as I got better and better at it. I would make up songs in my head as I typed. It really was the best gift ever.
In 1971 I was twelve years old, taking biology taught by Sister Diane at Regina Coeli School. Returning to school after a wonderful ten-day vacation, a biology test awaited us that first week in January. During that Christmas vacation I remembered having fun practicing on my new typewriter typing out my biology notes. Of course, I had to make the notes look good so I practiced my typing over and over again. I had always been just an average student and did not take my studies very seriously. At that time, I had never regarded myself as studious or even having the potential to achieve high grades. The following day after the test, Sr. Diane announced that there was one student that had gotten the highest grade in both 8th grade classes. I sat in my desk looking on with a bored expression thinking one of the smart kids got the highest grade. Sr. Diane looked at the class with an amused expression as she announced my name. I was in shock. I never thought in a million years that it could have been me. Inadvertently, when I typed out the notes, the information must have gotten lodged into my brain. The pride I felt and the shocked look in the smart kids faces did something to me. I realized that I did have potential! It just required a little work on my part. And that was the just the beginning of how that typewriter changed my life.
I became addicted to the feel and the rhythm of the typewriter keys on my fingertips. I tried to think of what I could do to keep typing. And then it came to me. A most wonderful idea! I typed out a daily special from the restaurant menu. The waitresses would usually hand write these specials during the slow hours between lunch and dinner. Coming from Catholic School where penmanship was everything I regarded their penmanship as atrocious!! I wanted to make my father proud of me so I presented him with a perfectly typed daily special and told him I could make the menus look more professional. My dad loved the idea! But unfortunately, I didn’t think it through all the way. At twelve I wasn’t fully aware of how many menus we had at the restaurant and I didn’t quite understand the whole concept of daily specials. In the beginning, I happily typed away and then I begrudgingly realized that I was typing the never ending daily specials for 100 menus, 6 days a week.
What started out as a great fun idea had become hard work! That little typewriter’s keys became harder and harder to press down as I forged ahead with the daily specials. My fingers became so sore. I no longer wanted to type those annoying daily specials. But there was no convincing my dad to go back to handwritten specials! By the following year, I talked my parents into buying me a much-needed electric typewriter. Aaah….it was so much easier of my fingers! But it was still tedious work typing out all those daily specials. By the time, I was a junior in high school I found an even better alternative to the electric typewriter. I graduated to a memory typewriter! With the memory typewriter, I only had to type one special. The rest of the specials could be automatically typed by the press of a button. All I had to do was place an index card in the typewriter one at a time. It was great!! But that wonderful feeling quickly wore off as I sat there for hours feeding the index cards one at a time complaining and whining about it! At this point in time, I was in college working on my grades and other interests. These daily specials were the bane of my existence. By the 80’s the personal computer became affordable and finally I happily became a whiz at typing out the daily specials!
Not only did that toy typewriter that I found underneath the Christmas tree so many years ago, make me believe in myself but it also taught me to always look for a quicker and better way to get the job done. But the most important lesson of all was that it taught me is to make sure to do research before I volunteer my services! Merry Christmas Everyone!
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