When Abe Lincoln and I were in eighth grade (at least it seems that long ago) we asked our guidance counselor for career advice. Abe, a solemn, moody kid, gangly and awkward, shy and insecure, said he wanted to do what was right, to win friends and influence people somehow.
“You’ll never make it in the public arena,” Counselor told Abe. “Forget public speaking. You’ll never say anything anybody wants to hear. And politics? They’ll eat you alive, boy. Besides, there’s not a lie, cheat, or steal in ya’. Not a crooked bone in your body. Literally and figuratively. Never seen a boy so straight. I figure best you settle for being a storekeeper or some such. So long, son. Next?”
He meant me. “Well, Counselor, I think I’d like to be a teacher.”
“What makes you think you’d be good at it?”
“My dolls think I’m a good teacher.”
“Hmm. Why do they think that?”
“I make sure they have recess between classes.”
“Good enough. Teacher it is. Any questions?”
“I’ve heard about this newfangled thing called a typewriter. Won’t a teacher need to know how to type?”
“Good heavens, girl, you’re going to college. College folk will have secretaries to do menial work. You don’t need typing. What you need is Latin. All educated people need Latin.”
“Um-m-m, well, if you say so…”
“Latin it is. Next?”
So it was that I was off to minimum of two years of Latin. People in my neighborhood couldn’t speak English very well, so finding someone to converse with in Latin was out of the question. I eked by, wondering what the heck I got out of it other than two years of torture. As time went by, I discovered I could deduce the meanings of words from their Latin roots. A boon to writers and contestants on Jeopardy, but it helped not a whit when shoveling through mounds of teaching paperwork.
In my spare time, (I hear teachers laughing) I did well at the Hunt & Peck Typing Academy and became a fairly effective typist – minus the time required to reread and retype for fat-finger syndrome errors. My newfound semi-skill gave semi-speed to my creative writing urges, and so, as poet and writer, I blossomed.
Dallying along the writing path, I developed a penchant for the ellipsis. Ellipsis… and its plural, ellipses…come to us via Latin from the Greek elleipsis, taken from their word elleipein meaning “leave out.” My Latin struggles were not in vain!
As well as what it can reach first, the middle finger of my right hand tends to grab the period and comma as its inviolable territory. Hence, it has earned the title Ellipsis Master (the Black Belt of typing), and, due to my writing style…deserves veneration in its old age. Right now, Ellipsis Master is wearing a finger cot tipped with cotton to cushion the blows. This forces serious reconsideration of gesturing to an obnoxious driver when one’s digit is wearing what appears to be a condom.
Still, I wish I’d learned to type when my mind and fingers were flexible enough to accept structured typing discipline. Free-range fingers, like chickens, tend to develop a pecking order. Usually it’s the closest finger gets the letter. Watching them scramble is as entertaining as the result. Unless I’m pressed for time, at which time, I curse my old counselor.