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Sense and Nonsense: Numbers — and lots of them — often tell the story

August 6, 2012

There are all sorts of quizzes going around that start out "you know you're getting older if ... "
A laundry list of "old stuff" follows.
A few years back, I came up with another one, all on my own, and I think it bears noting again.
Here it is: You know you're getting older if you don't use the whole keyboard on your computer.
At the time I thought of this, I conducted a mini-survey among employees of the newspaper. It revealed that those of us who learned to type before computers became commonplace office equipment don't use the additional set of numbers on the right side of the keyboard.
We of the seasoned typing set — those of us who learned to type on a blind keyboard like I did in Mrs. Crittenden's typing class at Cotton Plant High School — use the standard row of numbers and symbols above the three rows of letters.
All typing teachers required students to learn to type on blind keyboards back in "the old days." And if someone is so naive as to not understand what I mean by a "blind keyboard," I'll explain: It was one in which there were no letters or numbers on the keys.
We learned to type by using prescribed exercises and illustrations given in our typing books or by our teachers. The right finger had to be on the right key or typing with speed wasn't going to happen, we were taught.
And speed was one thing we were after — along with accuracy.
I got onto the "who uses the other numbers" project one day when I happened to be looking over the shoulder of one of the younger employees here and noticed her fingers flying over to the numbers on the right side of the keyboard.
"I never use those numbers," I thought to myself. Truth be told, I don't think I ever really recognized their existence until that point.
This incident inspired my office survey. First, I asked someone of my generation about it.
"Hey, do you ever use the numbers on the right?"
"Of course not," former editor Whit Jones replied. "They're absolutely worthless."
My sentiments exactly.
Next, I went to then-newsroom clerk, the late Betsy deRas, a super-organized person who lovingly nagged me into doing many things I might never have remembered to do if she hadn't been around.
"Do you use the extra numbers on the right?" I asked.
"Never," she said. "I use the ones at the top and I never have to look at them."
Former Courier reporter Jerry Breeden was next to be queried. In his own inimitable way, he echoed what the others had said.
Carrie Turner, the baby of the department, was a different story. She regularly used the extra numbers and attributed it to having taken accounting courses, reiterating that the numbers are positioned the same way as an adding machine, which is another reason that I would avoid them since they reek of math-related stuff, my nemesis.
And there was also the fact that at her age, she had never typed on anything that didn't have the superfluous set of digits.
I can look at the numbers and see that they resemble an adding machine keyboard. It just doesn't mean I'll ever use them. It would seem disloyal to Mrs. Crittenden and everything she taught me if I were to ignore the other numbers whose positions are so deeply ingrained into my brain and fingers.
I loved typing. It was one of the easiest A's I ever made. Since I started playing the piano at the age of 6, my fingers were plenty nimble and I had no trouble learning to type.
My late spouse never mastered typing as a kid and always marveled at those of us who type really fast.
"Well, why in the world didn't you learn to type in high school?" I asked him.
"I took typing," he explained. "But I just couldn't get it."
At least one factor may have inhibited his ability. Ed said neither he nor the teacher realized until the semester was almost up that he wasn't using his little fingers at all.
"Didn't you do the f-d-s-a-f, etc., exercises?" I asked.
Oh, yes, he said. But it took him longer to complete the work than it did his classmates. He had to have time to slide another finger over as a substitute whenever he was supposed to be using his little finger. For whatever reason, that was easier for him, he said.
I didn't have to ask him if he ever used the extra numbers on our computer. There are some things a wife could know without ever asking.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.
lyndahol@yahoo.com

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