The Smith Corona

I’ve been writing for 25 years now – “writing,” meaning more than just checks or grocery lists. When you say you’re a writer though, it implies you get paid to do it, or that you’ve been published. It’s easy to get published on the Internet, now. Everyone’s a writer.

So I’ve gone from writing long-hand to electric typewriter, to computer, to manual typewriter, to notepad, and back to computer.

My favorite was a pea-green Smith Corona manual typewriter, which was made in the 1960s. I know it’s from the 60s because that shade of green only existed in the 60s, on cars, floor lamps, and typewriters.

I got it at a shop on Capitol Hill when we first moved to Seattle, in 1996. The keys were well-oiled and so responsive, it sounded like gunfire when I typed. I took it with us camping to Orcas Island and beat on it at the picnic table, not realizing it was probably rude to type in a public campground after dark.

I liked the Smith Corona because it felt like a percussive instrument. I’ve never been able to make music, but I like to believe that with the Smith Corona, the clicking and snapping had a kind of beat to it. I’m sure my neighbors would disagree.

Through all my writing, living alone on Capitol Hill, I amassed a stack of paper next to the typewriter. It made me feel good to look at the stack: it was evidence I was doing something. It didn’t amount to anything I would share today, but it kept me going.

While I did it, I reasoned with myself that at least I was improving my typing. That helped me get temp jobs in the past, when they tested me on my word count per minute. They were always surprised that a guy could type so fast, so accurately!

It also strengthened my wrists, since the manual typewriters require you to hold the shift key down when you want a capital. So the physical aspect of typing/writing was one that felt musical somehow. It’s different with a laptop, although I still get a click out of the keys.

The Smith Corona met its fate flying back from Spain in 1998. It got damaged in transit, by the airline. As a result, the carriage return didn’t work right – it sagged. My words drooped as I got to the right margin, and this stressed me out.

I took it back to the shop where I bought it and asked if there was anything that could be done. He said, short of hitting it with a sledge hammer, no. The carriage had been bent, and the only way to undo that was to hit it again from the other side.

I held on to the Smith Corona, but it became a piece of art in my garage: an ornament, reminding me of another time, and a dream I had about myself. I haven’t been able to get it right since that machine.

About pinklightsabre

William Pearse publishes memoir, travel journals, poetry and prose, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
This entry was posted in Factory Reset, writing and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Smith Corona

  1. Pingback: Dreams and Despair | Pinklightsabre's Blog

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