Monday, March 05, 2012

The importance of poor penmanship

Last week I went to a new doctor, and as to be expected upon one's first visit to a doctor's office there was a bunch of paperwork to fill out. As I sat in a chair with the clipboard on my lap, printing my information in the various boxes, I was reminded of how atrocious my handwriting is—even when I try to write in clear block letters. It's as though years and years of typing on keyboards have made the very action of holding a pen to paper something of a foreign action for my body.

Sure, I occasionally jot notes, but with those I'm not attempting to have any level of clarity; it merely needs to be such that I can jog my memory later when I glance at it; I don't have to be concerned with something that will be read by others for the purpose of entering it accurately into records.

And the reality is that filling out paperwork is so unnecessary. Recently I also visited a new optometrist, but with them when I called to make the appointment they emailed me a link to fill out the "paperwork" online ahead of time. So when I arrived they merely handed me the printout and have me sign at the bottom. It really was marvelous (and I presume it may alleviate the need for some assistant to have to try to make out my scribbles and enter the same info into the computer system—it's not that I want to take away someone's job, but ultimately it's more efficient, and that must be better for all).

Back on the topic of my handwriting:

I suppose I should concede that it's not like I ever had fine penmanship. I abandoned cursive back in high school, and taking notes in college required essentially improvised shorthand, so as an adult I've never impressed anyone with the way I formed letters (or numbers for that matter) on paper. However, that didn't stop me from still doing it (for my own purposes) for a long time.

For the better part of over 20 years I kept my journal by writing with a pen on lined notebook paper. I still have all of them in binders that fill an entire bookshelf. And last year, ostensibly as a possible space-saving effort, I even started a project to take the pages and scan them into electronic format (so I could then not only pack up the binders to put in storage, but also have an electronic "backup" if anything should even happen to them). While I only got about two binders' worth scanned (it's tedious work), it did give me an opportunity to look back at the thoughts I'd captured back in the years 1988 and 1989.

Well, it gave me a chance to try to see what I could make of the scratched I'd made with a pen on the page. While I was able to discern most of the attempted words, I must admit there were more than a few instances I noticed while glancing at the composition where I genuinely was not sure what I'd put down.

Of course, given how insipid much of what I was writing about in those days was, that may be for the best.

If someday people ever go through them, they'll almost certainly stop trying; if the subject matter doesn't bore them to sleep the penmanship will render parts indecipherable. That was never intentional, but sometimes circumstances do come together serendipitously to transform one's failings in one area into one's salvation (or at least protection from eventual embarrassment—or possible prosecution).

Granted, everything composed when I switched over to doing the same thing on a computer will have no such obfuscating defense. In case anyone ever sees the electronic files, I'll offer this preemptive plea/attempt at convincing the authorities: Any resemblance to actual persons or events is purely coincidental. Or ironic. Eh, let's go with both.

Of course, if everything I've posted here hasn't gotten me locked up, then such concerns are likely unfounded.

But one can never be too careful. Guess I need to find a strong enough magnet...

1 comment:

  1. Points for using "insipid" in a sentence. My writings are all insipid too, both yesterday and today. I burned all my writings from years past. Now I just push "Delete."

    It's too late for the online stuff to be retracted, though. They're coming for you now.


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