Saturday, July 28, 2007

Clack Clack Clack Clack Clack Ding Zzzzzziiiip!

They were lovely sounds.

Yesterday, I was sitting at my computer, working from home, and a stray smell passed by. The window was open because it was delightfully cool and rainy outside - nice change from the baking desert Denver has been for most of the summer - and this smell drifted in. It only lasted a second, and I don't know what it really was, but for just an instant, it smelled like the unique combination of oil, metal, rubber, and paper of a manual typewriter.

Ah, sweet memories! I wrote my first few novels, and vast numbers of short stories on a portable typewriter that I bought in high school. I still have it, er, somewhere. The smell triggered wonderful tactile memories of striking the keys and feeling the letters being impressed onto the paper.

And of course of unsticking the keys, and trying to correct typos, and pages getting messed up and having to be retyped, and paper cuts, and changing ribbons, and that loose t that I had to keep pressing back into position so that that one letter wouldn't stick up above the rest of the line. Sure, it was an awful way to write, and I was daydreaming about some kind of computer setup long before those became practical. I'd never go back to using a typewriter. The idea is absurd.

Still, on some level, that's still real writing to me. I kind of miss the beautiful machining and engineering, the clacking of the keys, the ding of the bell, the feel of the carriage return lever, the zzzziiipclunk of the carriage being returned. Even the electrical typewriter I graduated to from that manual portable didn't have the character and tactile and sound pleasure of the manual.

Couldn't blog with it, though.


Chris said...

I, too, would be reticent to write on a typewriter these days. (Stops, reads previous blog entry.) Wait, reticent means WHAT? Crap.

Travis Erwin said...

I'm always amazed at the power of smell to take you to another place.

David said...

I read a long time ago that smell is the most evocative of the senses. I don't know how one measures that, for scienterrific comparison purposes, but it does seem to be true.

Lauren said...


So every time I get a whiff of cooler fall weather, I sob....

David said...

Ho, ho, Chris. That was very well constructed.

Lauren, hi, and where are you from? I'm wondering what kind of summer you're contrasting autumn with. Actually, I'm also wondering what that whiff consists of. Unfortunately, I have a poor sense of smell, and I can't think of anything I associate with autumn nowadays. When I was a teenager in Indiana, people still burned piles of leaves in autumn, which was a wonderful smell, but that vanished everywhere (I think) long ago.