Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Quick Minded - Slow Fingered - Chapter 12

For many years my fondest hope, and unfulfilled desire, was to go to college.  In my early adulthood, as the mother of three children, I simply had no opportunity to do that.  I know many young mothers (and fathers) do attend school and work and parent, and it was not that I was unwilling to give that a try.  Rather, it was that we moved frequently, and only a time or two did we live in a town large enough to have a local university.

The Internet and long-distance learning were still in the future, so if you did not have:

a) child care
b) transportation
c) a local university or college

then basically you had no options.  I had none of the three, so I felt doomed to ignorance.  Then I stopped boo-hooing to myself and got busy.

If I was not going to be able to get a college education in the foreseeable future, I simply decided to become auto-didactic.  (That is a fun word, isn't it?  Simply means self-taught.)

First, I read the text books my husband had used in Bible college.  I read hermeneutics, homiletics, theology, church history, and pretty much any thing else I could get my hands on.  And I used Strong's Exhaustive Concordance as often as a cook uses salt and pepper. Since I could not study Greek and Hebrew, I could at least learn to cross-reference effectively. I still have a copy and it does not have dust on it.

Then I went to my local library and began to read modern theologians.  I read Paul Tillich, Martin Buber, Dwight Pentecost, E. Stanley Jones and others whose names do not readily come to mind.

Next I stumbled across C.S. Lewis and fell in love (intellectually speaking, that is).  For about two years I read pretty much everything he had ever written and then began reading other authors he quoted, recommended, or who had written about him.  This led me to J.R.R. Tolkien, George MacDonald,  and Lewis B. Smeade, among others.

Oh, come on now, you cannot be surprised, as I have told you at least a half a dozen times that I was (and still am) a bookworm.  I was not joking.

This enjoyable intellectual exercise might have gone on indefinitely, albeit to no great purpose..  However, after we lost everything, I needed to go back into the workforce - quickly.  There was no time to go to a technical school, or take a bookkeeping course, or obtain some other type of training to acquire paying skills. I needed a paycheck now.

I had not worked outside the home for any significant length of time for nearly fifteen years.  But a friend, who knew how desperate I was, offered me immediate part-time clerical work in the office where she was the manager.  I gratefully accepted, after assuring her that I did have the two skills she required.  I knew how to answer a telephone professionally and I could type. 

For any woman who has ever had to walk back into a professional environment after years of being a stay-at-home parent, I do not need to tell you how nerve-wracking this was. 

That first Monday morning she showed me my work station, told me where she would be should I need her, and indicated a stack of forms to be typed, next to the machine I would be using.  Then she left.

I sat down, fidgeted around a minute or two, located the pencil sharpener, and  sharpened a couple of pencils. (I don't know why. I wasn't going to do a cursive assignment; I was assigned to type.  But nerves were not being logical in the moment.)

Finally I thought, "Come on, Marsha.  You can do this." And I reached for the on switch for the electric typewriter. (It was still a couple of years before ubiquitous PCs appeared on every desk.)

What I could not know, until that moment, was that the IBM Selectric III bore little resemblance to the machines I had been using fifteen years earlier when I had briefly worked in an office until the sixth or seventh month of my first pregnancy.

Humm..... the switch wasn't on the upper right hand corner.  So I tried the lower right hand corner, the upper left hand corner...okay now I was down to only one corner left, and that dratted switch had better be there!

No switch.  Now I glanced quickly around to see if I could spot anyone else just firing up their machine.  Phooey.  The others already appeared to be on their second or third form of the day.  I had not even started and I was already behind. I looked around to see if I could spot my friend, but no, she had left the room to go into an adjacent office.

I re-checked the keyboard, just in case there was a key there labeled "Power" or "On/Off" or something equally subtle. Nuh-uh. 

I could feel a slow flush beginning to creep up my neck out of my collar and heading straight for my cheeks.  Here a friend had done me a favor, offered me a chance to make some money knowing how badly I needed it, and I could not even figure out how to turn the darned typewriter on!  Oh, the shame of it.  The agony of embarrassment.

At last, I saw my friend re-enter the room and I slowly got up and walked toward her as she looked at me with a puzzled expression.  She later told me, her expression must have been in response to my expression, which she described as one of sheer horror.  She didn't know if I was having a heart attack, or had gotten word of a tragedy at home, or what!

I walked up to her and quietly whispered, lest some hot shot who was already on their third form of the morning overhear my pitiful predicament, "I can't turn on the machine."

"Oh, she said matter of factly, "that one isn't working?"

"Well, I don't know.  It could be."

Now she looked even more perplexed.

"What I mean is, I can't turn it on.  I can't find the power switch."

She quickly showed me where it was located - on the bottom of the machine at the back on the lower left hand corner - practically underneath it.  Now really, whoever thought that one up was just being plain mean.

I had quickly gone from being an intellectual hot-shot, to being a fat-fingered fool; and it stung. For the rest of the day I typed like a woman possessed.  I did not take a coffee break, I did not visit the ladies room (no need since there had been no coffee), I barely read what I typed.  I just typed. ... and tried not to cry.
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For whoever exalts himself (or herself) will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself (or herself) will be exalted.  Matthew 23:12
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Trust me.  Exaltation was a long way off.


  1. I'm really enjoying your chapters. Even way back then, God had created in you a desire to learn and you pursued with zeal. What a great bunch of authors to start your chase with.

    I think we all see pieces of ourselves in another's story...

  2. I was off work for 10 years and I found it scary to return. So much had changed but like you I got into it and soon got the hang of it again.

  3. Oh Marsha I feel your pain. It is a horrible feeling isn't it. So glad those days are past. Mind you any new job has a lot of these problems - I think anyway!
    Something I always wished I had done was go and get some kind of degree - so I am very impressed that you taught yourself.

  4. Look on the bright side! It could have been a computer!! I don't think ANYONE over the age of 12 really understands the electronic age ... Good on you for getting there in the first place!!!

  5. Yet one more story I can relate to, only I walked out after not being able to conquer the machine...acting like there's no way I'd want to work in such a place!
    Thank you for sharing your life and heart.

  6. i am very impressed that you tackled such complex titles and subjects on your own. That is the sign of a truly self motivated learner. And, I'm sure what happened to you with the typewriter has happened to many others!