She slammed the book into her forehead. I wasn’t sure if the force delivered was proportionate to the sound it produced, but it sounded like it hurt. She lowered the typing book as quickly as she had picked it up, face placid with a slight red mark betraying her now calm demeanor. She stood still for a moment, as if to fully appreciate the severity of my crime, and proceeded to contort her features again. She stamped her foot.

“No, no, _no_! Do *not* use the backspace key. I absolutely forbid you to touch the backspace key.” And with that she reached down and ripped the already pitiful excuse for a backspace key from its rightful place on the keyboard with a vehemence befitting the tone with which she spoke. I stared at the now exposed plastic where the key had been; a small spring lay exposed, unnatural.
“You must never use the backspace key. Ever. You should type and act as though it does not exist. No backspace. Every time you touch the backspace key I will dock you one point. Backspace equals bad grade. Understood?” She careened her face around so that I was forced to look her in the eye. She smiled sickly with her eyes slightly crossed, her long, greasy hair framing the pale ellipse of her face and accentuating her elfish ears.

“Yes, Ma’am,” I mumbled, and silently, completely, disagreed. What else is the backspace key for, other than to use? I am human. I make mistakes. I make several mistakes while typing. What was the invention of word processors for if not to allow the easy resolution of typing errors?

She was from a different school of thought, however, and prided herself on a fanatical intensity of precision. She had learned to type, no doubt, when typewriters still ruled the earth, and to make a mistake meant to start over – an undoubtedly unsettling event that, if repeated often, would be enough to drive anyone to the depths of madness in which she so unequivocally carried out her life. One might conceivably question her in all else (style, personal hygiene, social sensibility), but her knowledge of the great art of QWERTY was not to be contested.

“Observe.” She stooped behind me, reaching both arms around my shoulders as I sat in front of the computer, and started typing. In less than a second she had typed an entire paragraph, error free, in a flash of something that resembled keyboard mashing. It was absolutely unbelievable. She reached out, mashed the keyboard again, and miraculously produced another error free paragraph. Three seconds, at least fifty words. It was disturbing. No normal person could have done this. She again careened around to produce the toothy grin, looking more crazed than ever, then stood up and shuffled quickly back to the aisle.

A distinct odor lingered for ten seconds and dispersed. I wrinkled my nose and affected, secretly, to gag. My neighbor laughed, a bit too loud for comfort, and her head snapped in his direction, silencing his outburst immediately. She narrowed her eyes and pursed her mouth menacingly; displaying every wrinkle her frail face was capable of producing.

The glare persisted for fifteen uncomfortable seconds, and then dissolved as she immediately continued the lesson, resuming her rigid stroll about the room, visibly straining to detect if any brave soul dared break the sacred cadence of single letters emerging from the depths of her being with so much as a sniffle or yawn.

“J, J, J _space_. J, J, J _space_. J, J, J _space_. J, J, J _space_. K, K, K _space_ …”

I still have nightmares where her high, nasally voice and the buzzing of fluorescent bulbs and computer monitors are all that can be heard above the clack, clack, clacking of a thousand synchronized keyboards.

One comment

  • I share those same memories brother. I’ve purged her name from my memory but her eerie, mad, frozen, expression and maniacal actions have yet to leave my brain.
    I remember her character being the purest definition of the words oxymoron and ironic. Someone who was by all observations mad and without control of her senses, with so much accuracy and cunning speed in the demonstrations of her art. Autism as its best?
    Oh no! This discussion has brought the name back into my brain! Arrg! She remains, I hear the music of the wicked witch of the west in Judy Garland’s Wizard of Oz, with the vision of her riding a bike in a tornado.
    And yet in this entire comment I have used the backspace numerous times with no wincing infliction of physical or emotional pain. Life with PCs is great!

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