For the better part of two decades, I've made a living by doing what I'm doing right now: typing.
But I am to that honorable art what stick shifts are to modern driving and unfiltered cigarettes are to modern smoking. I'm a throwback, a relic, an unchangeable example of obsolescence.
I type with only two fingers.
I have never taken a typing course. I cannot close my eyes and recite the keyboard. I cannot type without looking at the keys.
I cannot type anything other than hash with 10 fingers, even when I try, which is only on a dare. And I simply can't get the hang of electric typewriters. Such a banger am I that I'm forever typing "cat" electrically with six A's because I'm used to the feel of a manual.
Nevertheless, my flying pair of indexes and my name may be heading for typing immortality in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The merchants association at Cabin John Mall in Potomac had a contest last week to pick the fastest two-fingered typist in Washington. Anyone with $3 could enter. All proceeds ($375) went to Children's Hospital.
First prize was literally an ego trip. The sponsors had noted that the 1981 edition of Guinness does not have a fastest-two-fingered-typist category. So they arranged to send a videotape of the winner in action to the Guinness editors in England, for possible inclusion in the 1982 edition.
I am pleased and amazed to report that the winner was me.
My net score was 51 words per minute. I actually rattled off the five minute test at the rate of 75 WPM, but the judges knocked off two WPM for each of my 12 errors.
My score was four net WPM better than Toni Schettewi of Potomac. Like me, Toni gets her two-finger practice at work. She's a secretary at General Electric in Rockville, and she's a heck of a lot neater than the newsie who beat her. Toni made only four errors in the allotted five minutes. Such is the secretarial life, just as type-it-first-and-ask-questions-later is the essence of the newspaper game.
Normally, competitive soul that I am, I would have circled Toni before the finals like Fast Eddie trying to concoct a psychological edge over Minnesota Fats. But once Toni and I compared notes before the contest, it almost didn't matter who won.
It was as if the heavens had parted. Here, at last, was Someone Who Understood.
"All my life," said Toni, "they laughed.
"When I was a girl in France, they laughed. When I started at General Electric 10 years ago, they laughed. When my children took typing lessons, they laughed.
"I even had a boss once who asked if I could seriously call myself a secretary because I didn't type with 10 fingers. But now, at work, when they laugh at me, it's because they're amazed that anybody can go as fast as I do."
"Toni," I replied. "I'll tell you what I always say. I don't claim two fingers is a better method. I only claim that if you do something the wrong way for long enough, you become pretty good at it."
But pretty good is one thing, and swellheaded is another. Tell ya what I'm gonna do, readers:
I'm sure that, out there in B.L.'s Wash., there lurks someone who can outhunt and outpeck my mark of 51 net words a minute. Guinness or no Guinness, I'm willing to face a challenge.
For a donation of $10 or more to Children's Hospital, I will meet that someone for a two-fingered type-off -- whenever, wherever. I'll even buy the beer.