Thursday, October 25, 2007

ad vitam paramus

I was firing off an email to someone I barely know, as you do in this hyper communicative world of the internet, when I had a flashback to being a 14 yo schoolgirl.

Picture this, a kid brimming with hormones and creativity, locked into a rigid old school curriculum studying Latin and French. I was interested in words and loved the former but detested the latter. Not many schools offered Latin in that time in NZ (I’m sure there are even less now) and it worked as an unofficial streaming system. The inference was that you had to be incredibly bright to want to study a dead language but in reality the classes (there were more than 60 of us) were a popular way to get into the best public high school in the city, for kids who lived out of the designated zone.

In the second year everyone got to choose an elective. They tried to herd the bulk of us into taking up German. Considering I detested French and saw no relevance for it in my life I had no intention of following the crowd. As far as I was concerned it was a clear toss up between creative writing and typing.

I don’t know what guided me into being such a visionary. At this time computers were the size of a small house and no one predicted that we’d all become slaves to the keyboard when the monoliths got shrunk down to the size of a manila folder. I figured I could combine the 2 subjects by injecting some free writing into the class designed for girls in the “commercial stream”.

The first hurdle was that “Latin girls” didn’t learn typing. This was a subject coupled with domestic science to set young women up for a well-trodden career path from secretary to housewife in the shortest time possible. Those with brains the size of the planet had no need for such skills as how to type faster than they could speak and the correct format of business letters.

Somehow I managed to convince the powers that be in the school timetabling department that I could fit in the subject with no chance of jumping the fence and upsetting the balance of order in their narrow world. I got to sit with dozens of other sweet young things at a sturdy manual typewriter with our own home sewn keyboard cover (to prevent peeking) to learn to touch type – no spell check, no white out, word perfect at a dazzlingly fast keystroke per minute ratio.

In no time I’d mastered asdf jkl; and got the quick brown fox jumping over the lazy dog ad nauseum. As I figured I wouldn’t be spending my life sending letters to Mr Brown or Mr Smith, it was time for creative writing to kick in. Pre-empting my first career in Political Science, the Potty Party was born and first the manifesto, then the weekly newsletter began flying off the platen. I have no idea what gems these epistles held but it sure baffled the “Commercial girls”.

A world away, I tap at the keyboard of a very different beast and delete a screed of nonsensical information from an email to a once met blogger and transfer it to a post instead. After all, what is Other Rants if it’s not the Potty Party's weekly flyer a couple of decades on?

As for the “Commercial girls” - if you are reading this over your morning latte at the multimillion-dollar company you run, drop me a line. We always knew that those who mastered the keyboard would rule the universe, while a CV of perfect amo, amas, amant’s would lead to a dusty, dead end in academia.

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Blogger Hugh Atkin said...

A very good read.

Latin is plenty useful though ;)

8:59 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

I have to admit I still have a soft spot for latin, even though I only studied it for 2 years plus another year of classical studies. As for french, I find I can only speak it under the influence of too much sangria in Spain, which in itself has never been very useful.

7:50 am  
Blogger Lene Andersen said...

A week or two ago, I found myself saying (might even have been publicly, in a post) that Latin is the only subject that I know I use on a daily basis. I'm glad I had three years of it and try to tel every teenager I know that iof they can find a class, take it.

And then you had me flashing back to manual typewriters as well. Sigh. Sometimes, I miss school. Don't miss the homework thing, but school? yeah...

1:14 pm  

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