Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A matter of pride

I don't have many things that I'm particularly proud of owning. Wait, actually, let me clarify. I do have things I like showing off. I call them my man purses, you know, the male equivalent of:

Girlfriend 1 - "Is that a new purse? It's so cute!"
Girlfriend 2 - "Really? I got it for half off, can you believe it?"

Yes, my collection of purses range from my butcher block island in the kitchen to my PS3 expertly hooked up with all the best cables that money can buy. There is a very real pleasure to owning something slightly lavish and totally pretentious. I recognize this pleasure and perhaps indulge in it a little too much. These items are not, however, the things that I'm proud of owning.

In fact, paradoxically, the items I'm most proud of are items about which I'm most humble. When I indulge in some retail therapy, I'll shamelessly drag someone in front of my prizes and say, "Check these out" while I casually lean back and place my hands on my hips (no, I'm not showing them my pants). In contrast, the good stuff, the items of pride, are meant to be found. A discovery is so much more valuable than an introduction. My favorite question to hear when guests are over is, "Oooh, what's this?"

"This, my friend, is a restored 1940's Smith Corona Sterling portable typewriter. Yup, it works. Let me grab some paper"

I'd then roll a crisp piece of cotton paper into place and move away. I can always sense the anticipation mixed with hesitation. It's funny because everyone starts out the same; hitting the space bar. When they realize they haven't broken anything... they tap. tap tap. Tap tap tap. Tap tap tap tap tap. Tap tap turp!

"You can't go that fast, the letters crash into each other"

Tap.. tap... tap... Tap tap tap tap. DING!

If they weren't smiling yet, this is when they let go. I've even heard a giggle or two. No one ever has a problem finding the carriage return bar and giving it a yank.

Tap tap tap tap. tap tap tap....

Yup. I'm proud of owning an old typewriter. I didn't design it or update it or even do much searching for it. There's no old grandfather attached to a sappy hand-me-down story. In fact, all I did was put up the cash. Kinda boring.

My pride comes from simply owning the experience. I love it and I love sharing it. The physical item itself is tertiary to the experience. When I share it, I begin to understand the passion of conservationists. I begin to think that there is a very real necessity in our world to keep old typewriters alive.

We live in a world of fly by wire, where doing things has been outsourced to devices and digital signals. Our increase in productivity has come at the cost of our feelings, our senses and our connection to the product of our actions. The typewriter neatly encompasses what we've lost. Sure, the feeling of placing pen to paper may be a more pure exercise but I always find it to difficult to get that great scratching sound you hear in commercials. No, that won't do. We need things like the typewriter, with its brash clacks and unabashed rings.

Writing is an intense exercise and I can think of no better way to go headfirst into the liberation of one's thoughts than through the cacophony of typing. As we give birth to our ideas, we should welcome an appropriate amount of noise and the sharp slap of reality. Like the reality of rules. You can't go too fast. You have to respect boundaries. You have to work on things one page at a time. If you make a mistake, you have to watch it stare back at you accusingly.

We need typewriters. Find one, buy it, save it. Be proud of it.

I wish I could be typing this to you on the Smithy but of course that would be ridiculous. You are, however, invited to come over and give it a go. But, you'll have to discover it for yourself.


Anonymous said...

Really Ken...a typewriter!?!

Ken said...