about my typewriter

A little over a month ago, I got the notion to buy myself a typewriter.  I’d gone to a book-making event at which I helped type-up some poetry broadsides on a typewriter.  I was reminded of how satisfying—and challenging—it is to type on one of those things.  The typewriter is very straight forward, and affords no distractions from its prime directive: to print words.

I quickly tried to collect as many potential uses for a typewriter as I could.  I was set on having my own, and I needed justification to spend the money.  I could use it for filling out forms, typing up addresses on envelopes, and recording my thoughts, safe from the wiles of Facebook or my email inbox.  I could use it for letters, family memos, or to type out things I can’t print at home; my computer printer hasn’t worked in years.

I could also eagerly, if not cautiously, expose my son to the wonders of the typewriter.  After all, a child his age once used her family typewriter to compose stories and full-on books!  I’d recently learned the haunting story of Barbara Newhall Follett in the Lapham’s Quarterly article, Vanishing Act.  I suppose it was her story that planted the typewriter seed, months prior to the book-making event.

I conducted a search or two on the internet, to see how much a portable, non-electric typewriter would go for.  I found a man named Jim in the Seattle area who repairs and sells typewriters from many eras.  My heart was instantly set on one: a Royal Rugged Quiet DeLuxe, in something of a dusty teal.  At the August Central District Artwalk I sold enough of my wares to afford the typewriter.  I called Typewriter Jim as soon as possible!  Of course, there were schedule conflicts and so forth, which seemed to last an eternity.  Finally, my partner and I drove out to Jim’s place to buy the typewriter for which I’d been lusting.

Jim showed us the idiosyncrasies.  For instance, there is no exclamation mark.  “Hopefully,  you’re not a very excitable person,” he said.  Instead, I have to use the long, straight apostrophe, then backspace, and type a period.  The typewriter is fully mechanical, and each keystroke must be executed with conviction in order to register a good impression.  Naturally, the keys can get tangled up.  (I have since had to learn a new typing cadence that suits my typewriter.)  I was sold, paid the man, and happily began typing during the ride home, right on my lap.

I knew then that I had to name it, name her.  What immediately came to mind was the name Eudora.  It is from Greek, meaning “precious gift”.  That alone did not seem appropriate.  After looking up her serial number on the Typewriter Database, a website complete with animated titles and a MIDI soundtrack, I learned exactly what year she’d been made: 1956.  Then, using the Social Security Administration’s Popular Baby Names service, I looked through names that had been common during that year.  One name stood out: Beryl.  To me, it suggested strength of character and a refined heritage.  Coincidentally, it is also Greek in origin and is the name for a common mineral crystal, which could easily describe my typewriter’s color.

Her name is officially Eudora Beryl; Ebie for short.

I’ve learned that she has several other idiosyncrasies, beyond those that Jim had indicated (or could have known).  For instance, the latch that holds the cover over her keys and ink ribbon isn’t very strong.  If I type too jauntily, this lid pops up!  It’s quite startling!  Also, both the U and the M tend to “hiccup” and advance forward an extra space, but not always.  This has resulted in many “exam ples”, “thou ghts”, and “fru strations”.  Sometimes, the ink ribbon is very sparse, for no explicable reason.  I can alternate between using the top half or the bottom half with a little switch on the front, and that sometimes helps.

She sits in our house, atop a particle board microwave cart that I bought for $1 and painted white.  Ebie is always in her case.  When I want to type, I scoot the cart away from the wall, open the top, and can begin typing without removing her from the case.  Made of reinforced fiber coated in yellowing shellac, her case has a document clip in the top, to keep paper at the ready.  I could pick her up by the heavy black plastic handle and take her anywhere… and she’d work just as well as she does at home.  She is patient, reliable; honest.

When I type with Ebie, it’s almost as if she is her own, quiet entity, in a way that a computer has never been to me.  I find myself franking thoughts in a diction retrofitted for her era, almost as if I’m speaking to her.  It’s “Dear Ebie” instead of “Dear Diary”.  She reminds me, constantly and palpably as I type, what a marvel and a privilege it is to put my thoughts on paper.

Many may dismiss what seems like a redundant artifact from a fusty era, but not me.  Having a typewriter has been a real treat, and something of an honor.  After all, Ebie has taught me a lot.  I don’t have to worry about what font I’m using.  I do have to think about what I’m going to say before I type it, and I have to mean it.  And, by either stamping them out with asterisks, pound symbols, or correction tape, I have to admit my mistakes.  Ebie will neither take the blame or criticize me.  We all have our limitations.

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One Response to about my typewriter

  1. Lucy List says:

    May I ask how much you had paid for Ebie? And despite her hiccups was it worth it?

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