I was the only boy in my high school typing class, which dating-wise turned out a lot better for me than being a third-string football player. If one all-girl class was good, I thought, two had to be even better, so I tried to switch from conversational French to home economics, but they wouldn’t let boys take home economics back in the Dark Ages. And the girls couldn’t take shop. No wonder men never learned how to clean a bathroom or do the laundry or make a grocery list. You’re not buying that? Neither does my wife. I still type pretty well but everything else they taught in high school is long gone. Chemical bonds? Trigonometry? The Lake Poets? I don’t even remember sitting through those classes, even though I sat through some of them more than once.
Typing worked out for me in all kinds of ways. It came in a lot handier than knowing how to pass a football. It helped me get my foot in the door at many companies back when knowing how to use an IBM Selectric was considered a highly practical skill. Selectric typewriters were the sleekest, sexiest productivity tools of their day. Each one weighed about 40 pounds and took up a huge chunk of desk space, but they screamed, “You work in a modern office in a big glass skyscraper that spits out a lot of stuff that has to be typed and mailed.” When computers first started showing up in offices, Selectric typists weren’t scared of them at all. One look at the computer keyboard and they knew they couldn’t be that hard to use. While Selectrics went the way of the Model T, keyboards still remain. Typing is still a useful skill.
Because they knew I could type (and because they knew I can’t do anything else), a nonprofit where I volunteer roped me into inputting their mailing list on the house computer. I knew many of the people on the list and was familiar with their names and addresses. However, I wasn’t ready to find out 63-year-old Mrs. MacGuilicuty’s email address was redhotmomma123. Gross! It’s a picture I can’t get out of my head. Couldn’t she just be ermamcg13 or something normal? It got worse. Hotnheavy36 was someone I golf with. He certainly is heavy. Hot he is not. Whipme1347 is a CPA. And there are 1,346 more guys who got that email address before him? Yikes! By the time I was finished, I pretty much knew who owned a Harley, who was newly single and loving it, who liked fly fishing, who was into leather, rubber, fur, latex, bondage, uniforms and nudism; who were vegetarians, who were vegans, and who were chocoholics. I had worked with some of these people for years and never knew so much about them. Why Bob was always broke became a little clearer when I typed in “at the track.” Francine’s nervous tic may be explained by “mom of six.”
While many people use their names or nicknames as their email addresses, for many others that’s just not enough. It doesn’t tell people who they are, where they are from, what they are about. They put a lot of thought into coming up with a short phrase that will tell people who they are in their heart of hearts. Or what they want you to think is in their heart of hearts. It wouldn’t be a big surprise to learn than Bernie Madoff’s email address was “ucantrustme,” or that Donald Trump’s is “modestme.” Knowing that we will probably never meet most of the people we talk to on the Internet in person, and because most messages are brief, we probably feel a need to give extra meaning to our names and addresses. But I wonder if someday we will become in person what we are online.
“Redhotmomma123, I’d like you to meet my accountant, Whipme1347.” Actually, that might work.