Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Return of the Carriage Return

Sometimes when I’m supposed to be writing, I get side-tracked by the internet. I then chastise myself for doing so because I have then lost valuable writing minutes – precious minutes I have painfully sought out in my busy life. The smart writers shut off the internet component of their computers in the spirit of productivity, but in the spirit of ‘research’ and sometimes needed an occasional mental diversion, I leave mine on.

I’m not technologically ‘sound.’ I have an ancient cell phone I don’t want to upgrade, an e-reader that is barely used, and an iPod with songs I haven’t updated in 4 years. My laptop is basic with no bells and whistles, but I would DIE if it died. I will always carry notebooks and pencils.

Yet I really want an iPad.

And with all these gadgets at my disposal, I am technologically weak – no time, patience or understanding of how to properly use or update these things. I want and need them, they help me get by every day, but the time needed to sit and update/upgrade these things is precious time to write.

As long as I don’t surf the net while I’m writing.

I am one big confused technological contradiction.

One (of my many) my favorite sites is, a local online buy-and-sell site. I (honestly) don’t spend hours browsing; there are just two things I really only ever look for, unless there is a household need (like a canoe, for example – everyone needs a canoe). I browse through the purses for sale - and typewriters.

Yes, typewriters.

I dreamed of owning a good old fashioned typewriter, complete with carriage return lever, typebars and ribbons. Oh and don’t forget the little bell that dings when reaching the end of a sentence, telling you it’s time to push over the carriage. That’s the best part!

And why did I want one? I’m an amateur antique collector, and what writer doesn’t have a REAL typewriter? When the power goes out, laptops are only as good as the charged-battery and sometimes it’s nice to work on another medium. Although I have to say, my typing speed goes way, WAY down when having to push down the keys SO FAR – and the delete key isn’t where it should be.

So after eons of searching I found one at a great deal – a 1952 Smith Corona Silent (LC Smith & Corona Typewriters Inc, Made in the USA). I emailed the owner who was asking $47, and my bartering skills talked him down to $45 – a savings of $2! We e-shook hands over email, I shut down my laptop and with address in hand, my husband and I headed out. I swear he drove like a tortoise on the way there – I was too excited, and too impatient. I could have gotten there faster myself, but it’s always wise to take someone with you in these scenarios. The last thing I needed was to end up as a story on the internet as a missing person; I knew my husband wouldn’t have a decent photo of me to share.

Although any publicity is good publicity for a writer.


We found the house. The typewriter owner, a lawyer in his previous life who wore a purple beanie because he loves purple (there’s a story in there somewhere), reluctantly sold it to me. He was torn in his decision to sell - he had tinkered with it over the years, writing in spurts, but as he had a laptop and too much stuff in his house, he knew he had to let it go. Telling him I was a writer and that I would take care of it sealed the deal.

Money was exchanged, hands were shook, and as the lawyer gave a sad little wave to his typewriter, we hopped in the car with the typewriter securely on my lap. This time I wanted the ‘driver’ to drive like a tortoise so I could cherish the moment. It needed a bit of dusting (the typewriter, not the driver), but other than a small dent it was in perfect working condition. A few letters typed on the piece of paper already in the roller told me all was well.

But in my excitement during the exchange, I didn’t read what was already typed on the paper.

Where most people would type abc or their names with the real adventurous typing the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog, he, or to be specific, the ‘typewriter’, sent me a message:

Hello, I’m so glad someone wants to use me again.


We got home all too soon, and as I do every time I walk in the house, plunking whatever I’m carrying on the kitchen table by the front door, I gingerly placed my typewriter on the kitchen table for me to further inspect. I gushed over it for a bit, but as I had things to do like cooking and cleaning, there was no time to play.

As I dashed by throughout the day while doing my chores, my fingers would occasionally tap a deep key, my hand pushing the carriage return lever for fun.

It wasn’t till much later in the day that I stopped for a moment to check my email on my laptop; the same laptop that had sat all day on the kitchen table beside its ancient, ancient cousin, the typewriter.

Talk about contradiction. Talk about the ‘circle of life.’

I realized that sometimes in order to go forwards, we need to go backwards. Maybe writing on something without the lure of technology and internet would get me further. But without the internet, I wouldn’t have found the typewriter in the first place. But without my laptop and internet, I wouldn’t be sharing my (long) story with you. But without the typewriter, we might not be where we are today. And without my new/old typewriter, I might not have had a story to write.

So for now, I write on my laptop, dust my typewriter, and listen to 4-year-old songs on my iPod.

Excuse me – I have to go buy some more pencils.

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