Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Making Bank Tellers Swoon
Manual dexterity and I have never been boon companions. As a kid, I enjoyed sports, so I learned to be reasonably adept at catching and throwing. And because I wanted to write, I mastered the art of typing pretty well, though I had to take the class twice to do it.
That’s about as far as it goes in the manual skills department. Put a screwdriver in my hands, and I get the cold sweats. And drawing? Forget it. If I draw a cat and it’s recognizable to someone else as an animal of any kind, I’ll put that down as a win.
Those difficulties with drawing carried over to penmanship of any stripe. When I look at something I wrote or printed in elementary school (and by and large I try not to), I shake my head. It was a struggle to make the hand do what the mind wanted, and though I got A’s in almost every subject, I never got better than a B in penmanship.
Just Keep Doing It
A funny thing happened in the course of living a life. Writing, because it’s what I do, called on me to keep using my penmanship in one way or another. As with typing, I found that the more I did it, the better I got.
This is surprising in several ways since a fair part of the handwriting I’ve done has consisted of taking high-speed notes in a classroom or interview situation. Speed is the enemy of elegance, and I would defy almost anyone to make sense of my notes in those situations. A week after the fact, I can barely do it myself.
Those hasty notes, however, weren’t the only writing I did. I’ve always been someone who writes notes to himself and keeps records and notations by hand. With those, I took, and still take, my time. I enjoy doing it and find I remember things better when I write them down by hand. Plus, over the years, I’ve written too many checks to count, and I put care into those, if for no other reason than to avoid error.
A Receptive Audience
The result is that my handwriting is now pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. And I don’t. Bank tellers compliment me all the time, and so do other people who come across a sample of something I’ve written out. I’ve come to take pleasure in the physical act of writing and have lately been doing more of it with fountain pens because I like the feel of them.
Few schools teach cursive any more, so being able to do it at all — never mind well — is a vanishing art. Too bad in a way. It’s good for note taking, and for those of us who use it, it’s an expression of our personalities. In the movie My Little Chickadee, Mae West famously said, “A man’s kiss is his signature.” These days she’d have to say keystroke instead of signature. If you ask me, it’s a hell of a thing to compare a kiss to.