Key Slapper


Though it’s not the best photo and it’s dark, it’s a picture of my daughter years ago beginning to lay claim to my typewriter

For those of you who don’t know a key slapper is someone, like myself, who learned how to type on a typewriter. At least, that’s what I like to think. Now, I’m not a curmudgeon, or a luddite, or anything of that sort. I like to think of myself, or my generation, as the last to experience that of the old, while all the new gadgets came about. Remember the 90’s? When a friend had America On Line and you’d head over there after school to check out this thing called the World Wide Web whilst chatting with all sorts of people from around the globe. Ah the good times of fledgling internet experiences. We were also the generation that sparked obsession with reality television thanks to MTV and their hit show, The Real World. For those who don’t remember that first season MTV actually did it right on that occasion. They didn’t give the people jobs, or tasks to complete, or any of that shite to stir up drama within the household. These were very different people who were either living, or moving to New York, in pursuit of their individual careers. It was beautiful with its racial and sexual tension, homophobia and other issues we didn’t know how to process all put to the test. It broke down barriers and illustrated the flimsy base those barriers stood on. In short it was fears held up by other people’s bullshit. It was a show I watched in my room with the volume turned down low as to not upset the parents because we weren’t even sure if we should be watching such awesomeness.

Let me get back to the subject at hand. A key slapper is someone who bangs away at their keyboard even though the necessary finger pressure to execute a keystroke is minimal at best. I learned how to type on a typewriter. It wasn’t a manual typewriter, but one of those electric writers with the wagon wheel of a disk that had all the letters, numbers, and symbols. Oh, and don’t forget the whiteout tape conveniently built into the machine’s mechanics. This was the same year in high school when I took a course called Computer. I can’t even remember what we did in that class, but windows was in it’s infancy, and everyone had to know a little bit of DOS to get anything done. A few years later, I was immersed in college and writing on computers whose keyboards produced that weird hollow thunking noise. I decided to focus any personal writing, writing that was not required for my job or school work, to be done on a typewriter. It began when I found an electric typewriter that belonged to my grandmother at my parent’s house. I utilized it since the folks didn’t have a computer at the time. I found I really liked the idea about getting everything out of my system and onto a page. It was rough, unrefined, had terrible sentences, and was down right ugly, but it was a true version of a first draft. Plus the experience of writing took on a form of a shared experience with man and machine, and not keystrokes resulting in colored pixels on the screen. I cannot remember how long after that I acquired my first manual typewriter. A Royal typewriter was its brand. Soon to follow was an Underwood upright. Then there was the portable Royal, and so on. I’ve sold and bought numerous writers over the years and only have two in my collection, the Underwood upright, and a broken Underwood Noiseless (I will get it fixed). The simple act of writing took on the role of creative release as well as finger workout since pressing keys required more effort. After a successful stint of hammering my forearms would be burning and there on the page laid the blood of the machine in text. At least four days a week I would pound the keys that laid the foundation for the way I type, even today. I catch myself using the lower case “l” instead of using the one key, in addition to the ongoing fear of wearing out the keyboard of a computer. It’s happened to me and there is nothing more irritating than typing out something on the computer only to have one of the keys to stop working.

Even though I may not use my Underwood, I still bang away at the keyborard and try to make art through fumbling my thoughts out onto the screen through my fingers. I sometimes want to retrieve it and polish the relic up so I can hammer away once more. But, I don’t. I’m fine with the screen in front of me as I type on a keypad while others sleep. The Underwood’s found its new home with my daughter, and every so often I smile when I hear the familiar thunking noises as hammers slap word onto paper coming from her room.

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