There's no place like the home row

I type really well. Which, in the days of computerized medical records, is a definite plus.

Like every other skill I've learned, I owe it all to my mother. Of course, when she decided that it was time for me to learn to type, I wasn't very happy about it.

I think I was a teenager, maybe 13 or 14 years old, and had the whole summer free, or so I thought. I started paying attention to Wendy, a girl in the neighborhood who had, the previous summer, been somewhat of an annoyance, but this summer suddenly developed charming features I had not previously found interesting. All I wanted to do was to hang out with Wendy and invented every excuse to ride my bike over to her house. I had just asked Wendy to "go out with me" and she had said yes. "Going out" was something you did in those days.

We started the dating process by sitting in her driveway while the fireflies signaled that it was beyond my curfew. We shyly asked each other stupid questions, acting as awkwardly as if we had just met, even though we'd known each other for as long as I could remember.

My mother, far more knowledgeable about what I was up to than I was, quickly intervened and signed me up for a summer school typing class. I, of course, was mortified.

"I don't need to type," I said.

"Everyone needs to type," she countered.

"There is no bus to take me," I pointed out.

"You'll ride your bike," she explained.

"But it's four miles," I protested.

"It's good exercise," she said.

Rather than learn things about Wendy on those long, hot summer days, I taught my fingers the QWERTY keypad and typed and typed and typed.

Recently, we physicians have been forced to use electronic medical records. We all kicked and screamed about it.

"It's inconvenient," we argued.

"But it's better for coordinating care," the higher-ups explained.

"I don't like computers," one of us said.

"Everyone needs computers," said the administration.

"It's too difficult to set up," someone complained.

"It's better for patients," said the boss.

"I don't know how to type. OK, actually I do know how to type…" I said.

Ever since we started working with electronic medical records, while so many of my colleagues struggle to two-finger type their entries, I type as fast as I think. I typed my way through high school papers and college papers. I typed my notes in medical school. And now that there's electronic medical records, I type my notes and my messages.

I don't really know whatever became of Wendy, and I don't think I saw her after that summer. I suppose I could have learned a lot of different life skills that summer long ago, but the one lasting skill I learned was how to type. And for that I am grateful to my mother.


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