This is the second in my series about occupational hazards for writers.
Lately I’ve become aware of a chronic condition that has dire consequences for my future relationships with copyeditors, my agent and others.
I can trace it back to when I was eleven. That late 1960s’ summer, my mother decided I needed a skill of some sort. While I thought my guitar playing had money-making potential, she insisted on something more mundane. Beginning on the second day of my vacation, I had to walk four miles every day to my pediatrician’s house.
No. I wasn’t sick yet . . .
It was his wife I had to see. Mrs. Levin was a retired typing teacher. She’d spent decades at a “business college” teaching future secretaries how to hit those keys—quickly and accurately.
So for three months while other kids splashed at pools and played in the sun, I sat in a small pantry that had been converted into an office and typed juj juj juj juj ftf ftf ftf fuf fuf fuc fuc . . .uck uck uck . . .
It was hell.
I hated it.
I’m pretty sure that’s when my condition began, though it had a long incubation period.
After 90 days – yes, I had to practice on weekends too – I could type faster than I could think. (It was a more amazing feat back then than it is now). Since that time, my hands have flitted easily on any keyboard, my fingers tap-tapping words without inhibition. With few dexterity issues to block me, I could write whatever wild images came to mind.
However, I’ve noticed that my fingers don’t cooperate as much as they used to. This isn’t the beginning of arthritis . . . or dementia. It’s motor stubbornness, autodigititis – the odd accumulation of habits that I never realized I had acquired.
The worst offender is any word that starts with “par.” I am simply incapable of typing it without adding that damn “i” at the end.
Not up to pari.
There are other words that stump me too — not because I don’t know how to spell them, but because my fingers want to go somewhere else:
New Mexican always ends up as New Mexico
Michael is always, always Micheal
Does is always doesn’t first.
Apple is Appel (That’s my grandmother’s maiden name. I could use that as an excuse but I didn’t know her much and thought of her even less frequently. Perhaps it’s genetically encoded?)
Familiar and familial become family.
And forget words that end in “on” instead of “ion.” I’ve mistyped Allison more times than I’m willing to admit.
On it goes . . .
I don’t know why my fingers work this way, but they do.
Am I the only person with this affliction? Should I hie me to a yoga retreat to slow both mind and body?
Or . . .
Do you suffer from this too?
If so, what are your symptoms?
Perhaps . . . together we can beat this insidious disease before it bates . . . oops . . . beats us.