We common folk pretty well know what a typewriter is or was. More than a standard piece of office equipment, the typewriter was a portable tool for a modest writer like me.
It’s just about impossible to forget the sound of loud banging exuberant keys and the stinging metallic oakmoss smell of permanent black ink (which 20 years later is still stuck under my fingernails).
I remember carrying my pink 1957 Royal Typewriter daily to the Beaches. I would take Queen Elizabeth out of my Parkdale apartment down six flights of stairs onto the busy Toronto streets. Elizabeth and I would then cram onto the King East streetcar; She folded under my arm, me desperately clinging onto her and the rocking train, praying she wouldn’t drop on my foot or on Sally’s.
Sally lived across the street from me and took the same 504 streetcar every morning. A once talkative, wide-eyed, curious person, Sally stopped talking to me after Elizabeth had crushed both her feet. I’ll admit, now knowing how to type like a Royal, I shouldn’t have tried to type and stand at the same time. It just makes for a dreadful commute. Typing like a Royal saved my life, but Sally wouldn’t hear it or accept my most profound apology.
If you can get past her shrew-like stare, Sally is remarkably chic. She is dignified, carrying her space grey laptop and a clear sustainable silicone lunch bag stuffed with avocado toast. Like most good citizens, Sally is part of an assembly line of quiet typers, efficiently erasing and editing their work as they go without once stopping to think about what they should name their trusty friend or even if the misspelling of words like Google was indeed intentional. On the other hand, Elizabeth and I have significantly thought about this and our mistakes, including feeding a baloney sandwich between her silverplate and platen. I maybe should have tried putting it in backwards like my branded letterhead, but I am sure the results would have been similar: weeks spent cleaning out the keys and brushing off the excess butter.
Lizzy (as she sometimes likes to be called) and I have been through almost everything together; although mostly rejection, we have had a few small victories.
Elizabeth came into my life at my lowest point. I had lost my job at the newspaper and was contemplating floating down the Don River out to Lake Ontario when I saw inside the window of Royal Type a proud, polished pink Royal De Luxe. She was adorned with black and red ribbon—her white keys standing, waiting at attention. I took out all my remaining bills in my pocket, including my severance cheque, and laid it out on the counter.
“I’ll take the Pink Royal De Luxe Manual Quiet Typewriter, please.”
“Are you prepared to purchase the Royal agreement as well?” The sales clerk pointed out.
“The Royal agreement?” I asked.
“Yes, to purchase this typewriter, you must sign the Royal agreement and take typing instruction from the Queen.”
The sales clerk presented a lengthy, typed agreement. The Queen of England demanded that if one was to purchase the Pink Royal De Luxe Manual Quiet Typewriter, her former trusty secretary, there would be specific regal rules to follow. The Royal typewriter also came with a lifetime guarantee that your life would be forever changed by it and the instruction.
Having rolled up the bottom of my pants moments before in preparation for a point of no return walk out into the river, I signed the 600-page Royal document and commenced my lessons.
First, we must always demonstrate proper posture. Sit with your back straight, unsupported. Never use the back of a chair for support. The head, neck, and back should all be in a vertical line. Relax your shoulders, hands together, left on the right, thumbs pressed, touching gently. Eyes should be focussed and intentional, yet soft. Lift your chin slightly but not too high as you don’t wish for people to think you are snobbish. Then take a deep breath from the diaphragm. The idea is to lower your center of gravity. Your ribcage now should be aligned in the middle and feet flat on the ground.
Once proper posture has been achieved, you are able to think and express yourself more clearly. Please and thank you are words that never go out of fashion, as well as words that align with compliments and praise.
If someone distracts you in your typing endeavours, engage in light conversation. Suggestions include the weather, good books, travel and dogs. Always be graceful with your time and incorporate more words into your vocabulary as you converse or type. Never should the two be done simultaneously. Talking while you are working or to yourself is not Royal behaviour.
When the conversation has naturally ended, return to typing. Keep your hands perched even when paused to think. This will show others you are immersed in your work and are mindfully connected to your surroundings and the present.
Continue until you have completed at least 100 consecutive pages. Only then, you are worthy and able to type like a Royal. It takes time and patience, much like a good cup of tea.
Some additional considerations:
If a mistake is made on the page, do not correct it with correction fluid or an x. The offensive typo must be corrected when the page is completed and ready to be edited. A Royal typist always proceeds forward. Your feet (if pointed correctly) will remind you of this.
Again, I’m sorry Sally.