Archive for Wednesday, December 6, 2000

Excuse me, but I can’t write, right

December 6, 2000

After almost a full semester of college classes, I've come to a painful realization. I have a problem. There isn't a doctor in all of Baldwin City that can cure me. My grades and reputation will be tarnished. My professors will loathe me. My only hope is to go far away, taking only a notebook and a pencil and my third grade grammar teacher with me. But I fear the end is near.

My penmanship is dying. My ability to write legibly may one day dry up and wither completely. And why is this a problem? Ask my girlfriend. She is fed up with illegible cards attached to flowers. Why is this a problem? Ask my professors. I have a weekly report due in my literature class. I am enrolled in creative writing. No way in Helsinki can I turn in a paper with my handwriting. And even mathematics, numbers might be easier, right? But it's algebra: y and z and stuff, letters. I can't escape the demand.

And the immediate future is not the only thing I am worried about. This curse, this degeneration of legibility is only getting worse. My children will recoil instead of smile when I leave them notes in their lunch boxes. Normal leisurely activities such as crosswords are out the question.

I'll be an old man who'll write his will with a series of slants and dashes that will look more like Chinese characters than English words. I'll be forced to address my grandchildren's birthday cards with chicken scratch that will cause their eyes to shutter.

Believe me, I've tried to solve this problem. I practice my handwriting, taking slow, contemplative strokes and this works, for three sentences, at best. My mother tried to send me off to summer camp Camp Cursive, but it was full.

Maybe other people have this problem. People, who rely on computers to communicate, people who use stamps to sign their name on checks. They have jobs that don't require written communication, or, if they are smart, they are doctors. A doctor is the only respectable thing a person with my problem could become. But doctors need algebra.

I could be a crossing guard; they don't have to write much. And each time I help a bright young student across the street I can preach the joys of legible writing. I'll tell them to pay attention to their grammar teacher when she loops a line of "L's" on the board.

If I can save just one life, that kid could become a poet or a calligrapher. That kid could confidently hand in weekly reports or algebraic equations. As a crossing guard I could guarantee kids a future better than my own. A future in which they need never question how they could make something as simple as a pencil and paper as complicated as I have.

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