At my first office Christmas party nearly 50 years ago, when the drinks had been going around liberally, the company president said to me: “You know, I almost didn’t hire you. It was a typing job and you tested at less than 20 words a minute.”
“So, then,” I asked, “why did you hire me?”
“Well, you got a hundred percent on the English test, but that’s not the reason. Lots of people easily pass that test. I did it because you’re the only job applicant who ever got a hundred percent on the math test and I figured there must a place here for someone who could do that.”
The punch line has nothing to do with today’s story, but I couldn’t leave you hanging, wondering why I’d been hired. But it’s the typing I’m here to talk about. Sort of.
Last time my typing speed was tested, when a bunch of us were feeling silly around the office one day with nothing much to do, I beat everyone with 120 wpm and no errors. We can knock off 20 words for using a computer which improves everyone’s speed, and I did the first employment test on a manual typewriter, so if there had been computers 50 years ago, I might have tested at 30 or 40 wpm.
The point of typing speed is to be able to do it without errors. And yeah, for years and years and years, I was fast and mostly error-free. You had to be so before there were computers because if the page got too messy with erasures, you had to retype the whole damned thing. (Believe it or not, some of us are old enough to remember the days before White Out existed which, I suspect, has gone the way of typewriter erasers which came before White Out.)
But I’m straying from my point, which is:
Do all old people worry about what might be early symptoms of dementia? I’ve begun to wonder. Some typing errors, along with the advent of a couple of new kinds of mistakes, nag at me a bit.
These days I don’t need speed. And ordinary typos aren’t important. But the errors I’ve been making lately are of a new class that occur with just enough frequency to be mildly alarming.
Or not. I don’t know.
In these paragraphs so far, there have been half a dozen such mistakes. Somewhere up there I typed “plant” for “place,” “god for “job” and “much” for “mostly.”
You can see there are similarities in the last two pairs - kind of - and in the first instance, I’d just been watering the plants on the deck before I sat down to write. Also, I often type a homonym for the word I intend: right for write; son for sun; red for read, etc.
These are new kinds of errors for me. My brain is doing some things it has never done before.
Another word error I make is to omit a, and, the, with, to, for; the connector words. It’s not a new error for me, but the frequency has increased by a factor of five or six or seven. I do it a lot.
Three years ago or so, I attended a meeting to sort out a yes-or-no answer I needed about coding an online test. After a good deal of discussion, we arrived at an answer, but when I got back to my desk, I couldn’t remember if it was yes or no.
I noted how odd it was to forget something in less than two minutes, something I’d needed to know for awhile to be able to move forward. I shrugged it off to having being bored blind with the project from day one, but since then there have been some similar incidents with either/or, up/down, left/right sorts of questions.
Most recently (this is either funny or serious, I don’t which) – I’ve had trouble with the hot and cold water taps. I don’t remember ever thinking once in my life about which tap is which. When I need hot, I turn on hot. I need cold, I turn on cold. What’s hard about that, except…
A few weeks ago, when I stood at the kitchen sink waiting way too long for the hot water, I finally realized I’d turned the wrong tap. How and why could that happen after a lifetime of getting it right several times every day?
It’s hard to tell if I’m still having trouble with hot and cold because it has so disturbed me that every time I’m at a sink I tell myself left is hot, right is cold. As a memory aid, I’ve reminded myself that they are in reverse alphabetical order. Maybe the first time was only a minor brain fart that I’ve made too much of and thereby turned it into an issue.
That’s the trouble with dwelling on something too much; you just further confuse yourself. But these things keep occurring, so I keep thinking about them.
A quick check around the web for early symptoms of dementia (I’d rather not know too much about this) bring up these – among others:
- People with dementia often find it hard to complete everyday tasks that are so familiar we usually do not think about how to do them. A person with dementia may not know in what order to put clothes on or the steps for preparing a meal.
- Occasionally everyone has trouble finding the right word but a person with dementia often forgets simple words or substitutes unusual words, making speech or writing hard to understand.
Of the ten symptoms on the list, it appears that only two apply to my recent problems and not to the degree described. And maybe they aren’t new problems. Not counting the hot/cold issue, maybe I’ve always had similar brain farts and have only become sensitive to their possible portent because I’m older now.
Or maybe there are other reasons. I know, thanks to easy access on the web, that I take in way too much unrelated information every day and don’t remember half of it. That’s just information overload and doesn’t concern me.
Another reason might be almost six years of daily, unrelenting stress: fourteen months of unemployment followed by two-and-a-half years of a four-plus-hour commute, then another year of unemployment which continued for another year waiting for my New York apartment to sell. I could feel it taking a psychic toll while it was all happening and did my best with meditation and other techniques (is blogging a stress-reduction technique?) to mitigate the effects.
But why would stress catch up with me now when I’ve alleviated the cause? I guess you can’t know these things until the day comes when your blog readers can’t make sense of what you’ve written because your typing has turned into gibberish.