Buster was my office mate and neighbor for over twenty years, and while we each enjoyed a fair amount of privacy, our walls were quite thin and our lives held few secrets.
Buster had a computer, which he used to conduct most of his insurance business, but he used his trusty IBM Selectric typewriter for his insurance forms on a daily basis. And OH how I loved the sound of him pecking away at that machine!
It was a nostalgic sound for me, as my dad’s secretary had an orange-hued Selectric perched atop her desk and I can still hear the roar of her fingers racing over those keys. Sandy was so fast, however, that her machine sounded more like a freight train that never arrived at its destination, as opposed to Buster’s forlorn woodpecker.
For one of my high school journalism assignments, my dad let me use Sandy’s orange Selectric to type my paper. That little round Selectric ball bounced around and around…and the keys never jammed if I typed too fast!…as I worked up my masterpiece. I felt like I was sitting at a throne as I…OMG…rekeyed with a white ribbon to pick up any typed mistakes and make them magically DISAPPEAR! This time I’d be turning in a PERFECT paper!
As an English major in college, I dreamed of one day owning my own IBM Selectric typewriter. I’d never have to deal with typos again. I could buy a second type ball in a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FONT. It was the most forward-thinking typing machine I could imagine, and I was bound and determined to one day have one on my desk.
But then a funny thing happened. I switched majors to graphic design, and a whole new world of fonts and typefaces, sizes and kerning and leading and condensed and expanded and good grief! The world of type was unlimited and you could hire a typesetter to type up your resume in the exact style you called out!
And then an even funnier thing happened! In 1983, the Macintosh personal computer arrived at my job, and each employee got one (thank you Brian Lawler!) and I never gave another thought to the IBM Selectric.
Until I moved in next door to Buster and heard him tap, tap, tapping on that little humming machine. I smiled each and every time I heard him.
When Buster died a few months ago, his sister and brother-in-law asked me if there was anything in his office that I would like to keep.
Well, you know where I’m going with this.
Some forty-five years later, I have that IBM Selectric on my desk. It’s now considered an antique, the rotating ball not such a big deal, the self-correcting tape a big yawn. This one is the color of chocolate milk, not the bright orange of my youth, and the font is Caslon instead of Baskerville. But as soon as I turn it on, the soft hum takes me back to simpler times, and I feel like I have the whole world at my fingertips.