"To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong" Joseph Chilton Pearse, American author.

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Good Office Job! (Essay)

I was just under thirteen years old when I had my first typing lesson. I'd become a student for a year in the Holy Faith Convent School in Clarendon Street, Dublin and the reason I got to do typing was because shortly after I started the term I developed pneumonia and so missed out on a lot of class subjects particularly algebra. As I was hopeless at even basic arithmetic it was decided I should enter the typing class while my other classmates slogged at maths. I was thrilled!

To this day I remember the teacher drumming into us the "home" keys of the typewriter from which you moved onto every other letter. (See image above)

As I'd taken to the typing like a duck to water my parents were delighted as they always wanted me to have "a good office job" as they described it. I would be set up for life, I'd meet people from an educated background and hopefully one day marry one of them! After Clarendon Street I spent two years in the School of Commerce and Retail Distribution, 18 Parnell Square which now houses the Dublin Writers Museum.

It was there I excelled at the old typing coming first in every exam much to the horror of my fellow classmates who felt I had an unfair advantage having already had one year's experience behind me. Maybe they were right!

In the summer of 1967 I began my working career firstly as a clerk typist using a typewriter that would now be considered by the young as an ancient relic. It was an old Remington similar to the image above.

Over the course of four years I belted out letters, statements of accounts, credit notes and receipts on that sturdy monster of a writing machine that sometimes left you with aching fingers as a result of the sheer physical effort required to hit each key. Other drawbacks were having to change the spool ribbon when it wore out and if you hit the wrong letter the only way to erase the mistake was by using a piece of Tippex paper inserted behind the thingy that the key struck against. Hitting the key against the paper removed the offending letter whereupon you then typed the correct letter. God, how time-consuming!

The following five years saw me working as a book-keeper (what was I thinking?) for various establishments but thankfully for the final seven years of my working life I was back at the old keyboards again. This time it was an up-to-date twentieth century machine, an IBM electric golf ball typewriter, later to be replaced by the IBM self-correcting (one letter at a time if I remember correctly).

Looking back now I often wonder how us office workers managed without our high powered computers. I suppose like everything else, what you didn't have you didn't miss. You just got on with it.

Above image via www.typewriterhousecollector.com



  1. a wonderful essay, anne. the typwriter seems
    like such a tactile experience, more so
    than the computer.
    enjoyed reading this essay.

    1. Thank you so much Paige for your lovely comment. I really do miss using the good old typewriter, I'm constantly promising myself that someday I'll buy one of those great vintage models. Thank you again.