This past Saturday, I enjoyed the air conditioning and relative quiet of my local Whole Foods Market. It was late morning and the shoppers hadn’t quite all turned out yet.
My laptop was open and I typed away furiously. What was I working on?
I don’t remember now.
My concentration was broken by a Whole Foods employee who emptied the trash cans that were next to where I sat. “Excuse me,” he said, “I don’t mean to bother you. But, do you mind if I ask you a question? It’s a weird question.”
“Sure,” I replied and looked away from my computer. Admittedly, I was a little hesitant, not knowing where this conversation was headed.
The man asked me, “How fast do you type? It looks like you type really fast.”
Not expecting typing to be the weird question he wanted to ask me, I honestly replied that I didn’t know how many words per minute I can type. But, yes, I do type fast.
“I also noticed that you don’t look at the keyboard,” he stated, “How do you do that?”
I chuckled and thought of that old joke about getting to Carnegie Hall and replied, “Practice.”
The man went on to tell me that he was trying to teach himself how to type and asked me if I had any pointers. I showed him the keyboard of my laptop and explained which ones are called the “home keys,” and that’s where you rest your hands. I also showed him how the F and J keys have little raised bars on them, so that you remember where to place your pointers fingers to align up correctly with the home keys.
I encouraged him not to give up. I told him typing is a great skill to learn. I let him know that I didn’t always type fast – or accurately – that it comes with time and repetition. I recommended that he visit his local library to see if they have classes, or could provide him with some other assistance. I also mentioned that maybe he check out videos on YouTube to see if they would be helpful. I was at a loss on how to give someone typing instruction – a skill that I’ve had for so long that I don’t even remember when I learned it.
He thanked me for answering his question, and for the suggestions, and smiled.
I wished him luck and smiled back.
That brief exchange really made me reflect on taking something like typing for granted. The digital divide is a growing problem, and the skills that go along with that – like typing, or keyboarding, whatever you want to call it.
I think I spend a lot of time agonizing about the skills that I don’t have. I need to spend a little time recognizing and being grateful for the skills I do have – and how I can help others to shrink that divide. We all should.