New school & old school.

You all know I write a lot. Day, night, short stories, novellas, screenplays, blogs.the keystrokes pile up fast. The average keyboard lasts me about two years if I’m lucky. When my Dad passed, my old board was going South, so I got his. Lasted me 3 years, which impressed me. At Christmas, it was getting to be time again, so Pam bought me a brand new one. Same model, same everything. I thought I was set for a while.

Unfortunately, no. Despite me being a lifelong Logitech user, in roughly 6 months, my new board was going downhill fast. The ALT key had popped off a time or two. The space bar was so loose, if I pressed it down, Pam could see under the other side. The other night? The backspace key stuck (much to my chagrin), deleting a few paragraphs of work before I could get a toothpick under it to free it up again. In short? Not good. But, not the end of the world. Just go get a new one, right?

Not so fast. Pam and I went to do some browsing. Unfortunately, most places don’t have models on display any more. And Staples? Most of their boards are now of the chiclet-key variety, which I, not being up on such things, didn’t even know existed. My reaction? Again, not good.

So, last night, my space bar is failing on roughly every fifth word. The ALT key on the left is sticking, playing havoc with me whenever I try shifting from program to program. Since I need to navigate with only the keyboard, you can imagine the state this put me in. Tonight? Back to Staples, gritting my teeth, grudgingly forced to accept the fact I may need to move to this low-profile, chiclet-style keyboard. Until.

Pam’s guiding me around, and sees this funky display. Keyboards of a brand (Rock Candy) I’ve never heard of – nor has she. Instantly, I’m wary. If Pam’s never heard of it? I’m gonna think twice. And, when she said, “Oh, look. This one’s washable,” well, that set off all sorts of alarms. Washable? Must be a joke, right? And if not, what do I need a washable keyboard for? Leading to the bigger question: What the hell does a washable keyboard cost???

“Oh, and the keys are round,” she adds, putting my hands on it.

Now, pretend you’re me. You’re a writer who desperately needs a keyboard. You have a new screenplay you’re working on, and two new subs to get to publishers. You don’t want to have to spend time re-learning a board with a different layout or types of keys or that’s as smooth and unpleasant as a laptop board. Unpleasant to me, at least, because I need a little space between the keys. I like a board with a significant profile between the rows. You know – old school.  Round keys? What kind of nutty board is this?

“It comes in different colors,” says Pam, checking it out. “And yes, they have purple.”

Purple? That stops me in my tracks.

Grimace purple?” I ask, interest officially piqued.

“Grimace purple,” Pam confirms. Me being a worshipper of the big shake-loving guy, that almost sold me right there. Still, I hadda put the thing through its paces.

Rock Candy Keyboard in Grimace purple!

Round keys. In my head, something was rattling around, but I couldn’t put my finger on it (ha-ha) immediately. Not until I stood in front of this thing and started tappin’. And that was when I knew I was going home with this baby. Because something inside had awoken, and I was anxious to see if it was for real.

When I was nine, my Mom bought a $5 typewriter at a garage sale. I found it in the back of my Dad’s closet, and started pecking away. Shortly thereafter, I banged out my very first piece of prose fiction. When I was a few years older, my Dad brought home this monster of a business machine that the bank was retiring. Weighed about 40 lbs, no joke, and had huge ribbon reels. For the rest of my high school career, I banged away on that enormous Smith-Corona (as I recall). I wrote my first professionally published story on that typewriter. I wrote my first shoddy novel on it. I wrote, without exaggeration, thousands of short stories on that machine. I loved that thing.

But alas, all good things must come to an end. Metal fatigue began to set in. It got to the point I couldn’t repair the little things that kept going. And for my birthday, my parents got me my first electric typewriter. And so, I reluctantly put that beast to rest, giving it to the typewriter shop in town as a donation. Not gonna lie. Think I cried over it.

So now here I am. Three decades later, hundreds of short stories published, comic books in collectible guides, a few produced screenplays, couple of novellas out there, a well-received novel, 14 million copies of my work in print. And I’m here, breathing hard, because this new board? The keys, the keys are round. And they’re separated from each other by a significant distance. And, with the feet extended, the profile of the keyboard is, well, a lot like a typewriter.

A lot like a very old typewriter. True, nowhere near as big, and this thing is virtually weightless. But still, the feel of my fingers on this thing? Despite the differences, there was no getting-used-to-it period. I put on even less felt dots than usual, and just started going to town. And the 15-year-old kid in me? That kid started to laugh his ass off. Because while he shows up often when I get into a groove and feel like a teenager again? This? This is different. It feels like that kid is back in the cockpit, falling through the hole in the page.  I don’t know if that feeling is going to last. But I’m hoping it does. Because there’s no denying, at times the past couple of years, time passing, sightless, thinking about opportunities I missed out on, there have been nights when the kid didn’t show up at all. And even though I was enjoying the work, I felt like an adult. No, not just an adult. I felt old.  Something that never used to happen once I got going.

I don’t feel old right now. How my fingers got accustomed to this board in an eyeblink, I don’t know. But I have my suspicions.

And I think the kid wants to go joyriding.  For my part? I’m gonna let him.

 

 

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Currently listening to: “These Things” by She Wants Revenge

Here you go, Facebook, my reaction

Being a blind computer user, there are hassles. Unless they’re significant, though, I don’t usually call attention to them. I just live with it, find workarounds, etc. So, when Facebook rolled out their new Reaction buttons, I didn’t much care. Meant nothing to me. Why? Well, because I’m not so lazy that my attention span needs to be limited to 6 goofy icons.

Facebook's Reaction Buttons: Like, Love, HaHa, Wow, Sad, Angry

Last night, I commented on my feed about this, and in short order, my sister-in-law replied with an emoji. Sure enough, the programmers at Facebook hadn’t coded in any sort of descriptive tags. Meaning, it shows I have a new message. But when I click the Comments button, all that’s there under my sister-in-law’s name is a field of utter silence. Nice, huh? Way to go, Facebook! Why not just create a bird-flipper emoji for all your blind & visually impaired users?

The other thing that gets me about this whole ‘Reaction button’ thing is: has social media really made us this lazy? Is the effort required to type out “Wow” so onerous? If it is, boy, society really is going straight down the toilet.

I’ve made people angry with my posts before. In fact, I’ve outright pissed off some folks. Know what, though? No one, ever, has posted “Angry” over something I’ve written. Now, though, regardless of a position I put forward, which might include several different points, I can expect to occasionally get “Angry” as a response, sans context?

I want the ability to turn this function off on my timeline. If people want to use it, great, good for them. But I want the ability to make sure I don’t throw away my time when it shows I have comments only to find out that unless I call in my wife, I can’t tell what anyone’s ‘reaction’ to my post is. I don’t spend much time on Facebook as it is, but I’ll be spending even less if I start seeing nothing on my TL but spots where someone posted something–but I’m prevented from knowing what it is. I mean, it’s called “Comments” for a reason, right?

 

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Currently listening to: “Who Was In My Room Last Night” by the Butthole
Surfers