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E2. Lou Reed’s Nephew on Typing
“I took a copy of Walden to a job interview today,” Lou Reed’s Nephew bragged as he arrived at his cube in the late afternoon.
“Not much of a team player, Thoreau,” I said. “You hid it, I’m sure.”
“Not at all. It sparked a great conversation.”
“I’m guessing you didn’t get the job?”
“I am certain of it,” he said.
Other than not really teaching children how to text, I didn’t have a good idea of what Lou Reed’s Nephew did or intended to do. I had seen no more Andreas and several weeks had passed. In the meantime, he had decided I was a good audience for his daily observations, and I was glad to be distracted from the unpredictable surges of anxiety produced by our ever-receding go-live date.
“You are looking for a job?”
“Not really,” he said. “But you never know. You know what they didn’t ask about, though?
“Typing,” he blurted out before I could answer. “They never ask about typing.”
“Can you type?”
“Who can’t type?” he said “But it used to be a career path. A thing people got paid to do.”
“I suppose so, yes.”
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I took typing in high school, from a Miss Spenser who needled me for staring at my fingers instead of the lessons on etiquette we copied into the giant IBM Selectrics that crowded her room. She had enormous teeth, an endless supply of sweater sets with tissues stuffed up the sleeves, and a hairdo that must have required weekly visits to what were still called beauty parlors. The fifties, though fading, were still visible then. We were raised on its first-hand and second-hand TV, from The Lone Ranger and The Mickey Mouse Club to M*A*S*H and Laverne & Shirley. I played with a mess kit my grandfather—who had killed Nazis at the Battle of the Bulge—brought home from Korea. It hardly felt antique as I folded and unfolded it, cooking invisible rations over imaginary flames. On a timeline from the Korean War to my year with Lou Reed’s Nephew, Miss Spenser’s typing class appeared at the midpoint, beneath a shadow of waning national energy and plummeting expectations.
“Now they don’t even ask about it,” Lou Reed’s Nephew said. “They assume you can type and are probably always right. I bet they never hire someone for a job that requires typing and find out they can’t type.”
“Because everyone can type.”
“Because everyone can type,” he agreed. “What a shame.”
“For the typists. Where did they go? Where are the memorials to this clerical genocide?”
“I’m sure they just learned to use computers.” I thought about Miss Spenser. She probably hadn’t learned to use computers.
“Maybe,” Lou Reed’s Nephew snorted. “If they were lucky. If they were unlucky, the bosses learned to use computers and got rid of them.”
“That doesn’t sound like bosses,” I said. “Taking on more work.”
“If you say so,” he said. “I’ve never had a boss.”
He sulked for a moment before suddenly perking up.
“Maybe that’s not what happened,” he said. “Maybe the bosses didn’t learn to type. Maybe the typists became the bosses!”
“That would be nice.”
“It would be. But it’s still sad.” Lou Reed’s Nephew’s emotional roller coaster had hit another curve. He moved from elation to discouragement with ease, though it wasn’t clear whether these were part of the performance or the genuine effects the performance had upon him.
“How so?” I asked.
“The typists became the bosses, but now they have to do their own typing.”
“Where did all that typing money go?”
“That’s what I’d like to know,” he sniffed.