February 14, 2018

Some super-smart millennials ask, "What is that thing?"

     With two auditors peering over my shoulder—watching every move—I should have been nervous.  Instead, I was laughing. That wasn’t the first time it’s happened.  Some millennials aren’t sure what that electric thing is, the one sitting on the small oak table, clicking and clacking.
     The puzzled look on their faces was a clue that they were clueless. It has a keyboard but no flat screen.  When the young CPAs stopped snickering, I said, “This is one of my prized possessions.  I dreamed about owning one for years.  In 1988, I finally splurged and bought a top-of-the-line IBM typewriter.”
     One of the auditors reached over and touched the tan plastic cover of the IBM 6781 with its “personal wheelwriter.”  
     “Careful,” I warned.  “This has to last for the rest of my career, and I don’t plan to work a day past 90.” 
     The numbers-crunching duo snickered, again.
     While my world is filled with high-tech gadgets—with keyboards and screens large and small—I like sitting down at the tiny typing desk to address envelopes.  And every time I do, I am back in Peachy Aspinwall’s 10th-grade typing class at Jesup High School. 
     “Class,” I can hear her saying, “start warming up, and I’ll give today’s assignment in a few minutes.”  With that you heard a flurry of keys tap tap tapping and the click of her high heels on the tile floor, as she moved among the rows of students.  I started on a manual Royal, but I will never forget the thrill and the pride when she promoted me to an electric typewriter. 
     Don’t snicker. 
     That was a coveted honor in her class, down the second hall and on the right.
     Years later, after I started at the Wayne County Press, I couldn’t wait until I could afford to retire my Smith-Corona typewriter and trade up to the ultimate typing machine—an IBM.  Today, I like to shift into the bold mode on the keyboard.  It makes rapid-fire staccato sounds, as if I am typing twice as fast. 
     Don’t laugh. 
     Old guys need to have fun, too.
     So how’s this for funny?
     In October 1988, we started negotiating to buy Community Newspapers Inc.  Hubert Howard was the attorney for my partners and me.  Michael Jacobs, the C&S investment banker in Atlanta, offered to fax the documents to Jesup.  “What’s your fax number?” Michael asked. 
     “Uhhh,” I said, “we don’t have a fax machine.” 
     He was nice and didn’t laugh.  Instead, he asked, “Do you know your attorney’s fax number?”  “I will call you back,” I said.
     Hubert didn’t have a fax, either.  However, his ever-efficient and loyal assistant, Winifred Thrift, did have the latest magnetic-tape-fed-and-memory IBM word processor, a whiz-bang typewriter.  With a company credit card,  The Press-Sentinel’s ever-efficient and loyal business manager, Lynn Rice, raced to Savannah to purchase two newfangled facsimile machines—one for 252 W. Walnut St. and the other for Hubert’s office on Brunswick Street.
     Today, our fax machines mostly gather dust.  With the internet, word documents and PDFs, our computers do most of the heavy lifting of sending and receiving.  Yeah, I know my computer will address those envelopes, too.
     But just when super-smart millennials think they know everything about everything, my 30-year-old typewriter proves that they don’t.  So, don’t expect me to give up showing off my prized IBM any time soon. 
     Old guys need a chance to snicker, too.