The Writing’s on the Wall

By on August 1, 2011

cursive written letters on margin paperBy Leona Salazar –

I admit it. I hate change. Well, some change. Not all change.

I didn’t mind when carbon paper became obsolete and photocopiers were available everywhere. Try typing a 10-page Will with three carbons and no typos. It was a secretary’s nightmare.

I didn’t mind giving up my manual typewriter for an electric one and “oohed” and “aahed” at the futuristic “Selectric” typewriter displayed in the IBM Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair. We learned touch typing – not “thumbing” as I call texting.

I didn’t mind when smaller calculators were invented. They were much easier than the almost 100-key Comptometer, or something like it, which I learned to use in high school – by touch! Looking back, it was one step away from an abacus.

I learned Pitman shorthand and didn’t like Dictaphones at all because most lawyers who used them, didn’t know how to press pause when they were thinking, so you always had a lot of dead space during dictation which was maddening and very time consuming. Fortunately, my favorite bosses all liked to dictate, so, as a legal secretary, my shorthand skills were used quite a bit. After all these years, I still find shorthand an invaluable asset.

I’ve seen lots of changes in my almost 60 years, but I guess one thing that bothers me is the inevitable disappearance of cursive writing. Yes, handwriting. I remember reading a COSTCO poll which asked its members whether cursive handwriting should be taught in schools. Cursive writing is second nature to me so I was shocked that the question was even asked and even more stunned when so many people didn’t think it was necessary. I even asked a few younger family members about their views and two thought it was pretty much obsolete but one, a school teacher, believed it should still be taught in school.

A recent article in the WSJ said that Indiana schools will no longer be required to teach children cursive writing.

ink well next to letter As I’ve written before, young people know “keyboarding” and “texting.” With the inevitable extinction of cursive handwriting, I still think it sad that future generations will never receive a handwritten love letter in the mail.

This same generation will never experience handwriting a paragraph in writing class, as I did, in the 4th grade, meticulously forming each word perfectly only to reach the last line and make some stupid mistake causing me to start all over again, but feeling oh so proud when the task was eventually accomplished and I received an “A” in penmanship.

flash cards with spelling rulesI wonder if I would still remember the spelling rule, “’I’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’ or when sounding like ‘a’ as in neighbor and weigh” if I had typed it instead of handwriting it 50 times after spelling something incorrectly in my 5th grade.

I spend much of my time on the computer now, but I still have the callus on the middle finger of my right hand which I’ve had since kindergarten. I remember my mother taking me to the doctor and hearing him tell me that it would go away in a few weeks. Well, 55 years later, it’s still there, a reminder of years of cursive handwriting.

I know I have to eventually find someone who’d really like my collection of elegant fountain pens and blotting paper otherwise they’ll all be sold on eBay for the cost of shipping or given away at a garage sale after I’m gone.

Who would have thought, certainly not I, that you could deposit a check on your phone? Get money from an ATM without signing a withdrawal slip? Get cash back using a debit card? Although I’ve succumbed to online banking, I still write at least a dozen checks a month, court pleadings still require a signature, as do Wills and real estate transactions.

cartoon image of girl putting letter into pink mailboxI still like sending greeting cards and thank you notes through the mail, and I still love receiving them and recognizing the signature of the sender without looking at the return address label. It’s personal. It’s special. It’s individual.

But, I’m afraid, at some point, a person’s “signature” will truly become obsolete. I guess I’m just not willing to leap that far into the future. No, not quite yet.

In fifty years, if we all go the way of Indiana, future generations will probably be assigned a number, use our fingerprint, DNA, retinal imaging or some other yet-to-be invented technology to identify each of us. It may be efficient, but it won’t be pretty.

I don’t get it, but if you do, God bless you.

Leona Salazar is an attorney who prosecuted child abuse and neglect cases in California for many years. Married for over twenty years to a defense attorney she met in court, they live on an island in the Pacific Northwest near Seattle. She describes her website, I Don’t Get It, as the “musings of an almost 60-year old conservative woman onpolitical, social and cultural life in America.” It’s not her intention to offend anyone who “gets it.” She just doesn’t. Website: http://www.idontgetit.us/.

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The Writing’s on the Wall