I make the computer do his bidding
"Click there. Type in 'bass fishing.' Hit SEARCH!" commands my true-love-turned techno-taskmaster. My husband, Ken, is surfing cyberspace vicariously, peering over my shoulder as I alternately scoot the mouse around the monitor and patter at the keyboard.
I learned typing back in high school, at the behest of elders who insisted, "If you can type, you can always find work as a secretary." (Had they said, "find work as a writer," I'd have sulked somewhat less.)
Ken, conversely, never learned to type. But upon his recent retirement, he discovered that the Internet was a rich source for his leisure-time pursuits: fly tying and woodworking.
When he agreed soon thereafter to chair a church committee, a role that would require him to generate occasional correspondence, the handwriting was on the so-called wall. Ken resolved to learn "keyboarding," as it's known nowadays. Only too eager to assist, I installed "Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing" on my computer and showed him how to launch it.
From the word g-g-g o-o-o, Ken seemed edgy in Ms. Beacon's presence. Watching over his shoulder one day, I noted that this demanding schoolmarm in her crisp blouse (as depicted on the box, anyway) dispensed faint praise, at least in Ken's case. Timing his trials and critiquing his exercises, she rendered verdicts in terse terms: "Speed poor. Accuracy poor."
Before long, Ken was skipping school, playing hooky in his hobby shop. I wondered whether he'd given up on Mavis or vice versa, but it seemed wise not to pry. Then, a few weeks after their falling-out, Ken approached my workstation carrying a fistful of fly-fishing websites to investigate and a to-do list of e-mails to type with my clerical assistance, of course.
"Your wish is my keyboard command," I told my beloved magnanimously.
Really, I didn't mind. Not much, anyway. Surely I, Ms. Flying Fingers, could make quick work of Ken's correspondence. (Thus was my secretarial destiny realized at last.) But now, as he dictated e-missives, the writer in me pondered issues of voice.
Clerical intrusions like, "From Ken, as typed by Liz," seemed a presumptuous variant of the time-honored editorial "we." Yet composing in the first person, as though Ken had taken the typing into his own hands, felt disingenuous. And what if his correspondents then attempted to engage him in more frequent communiqués?
In the end, I chose the passive voice and held my breath. The cascade of correspondence I envisioned never materialized.
Meanwhile, chauffeuring Ken around cyberspace in the furtherance of his leisure pursuits, I became intrigued by fly tying and woodworking esoterica, even as he grew conversant in Web vernacular such as "load missing image," "refresh screen," and, his favorite to date, "place item in shopping cart."
Ken's new "modem" operandi has conferred other advantages. The height of my desk chair remains constant, and our household computer remains mine, all mine. Best of all, in me, Ken has found not simply a Gal Friday (and Saturday through Thursday, too) as his personal Internet service provider. I also offer free, in-house tech support.
Why would he ever need to learn typing? He's a master of voice-activated computing.