I suck at thumb-typing

I‘m a little nervous about dog bites and/or being shot in the eye.

But what really worries me is using this iPhone. And now, my whole career as an enumerator is counting on me using it.

I’ve never become inextricably attached to my phones; I can’t toss off texts on the fly, book a hotel room while food shopping, etc etc.

I understand they’re convenient, even deus-ex-machina-esque  in an untenable situation. That’s if the battery’s charged;  if you can see the screen in the sun, if you’ve got a signal, if it didn’t just fall out of your back pocket into the toilet.

Plus, I’ve always had an Android, first because long ago, as a travel writer whose job depended on keeping in touch, it was the only phone with GSM – a system used almost everywhere else in the world.

Plus, at a time when the big thing about handhelds was how small and light they were, I was able to go big with a Samsung. I may have gotten eye-rolls, but I was realistic: the Samsung Note was harder to lose, easier to read and also to type on. 

That last point being my main problem with smartphones. I loathe typing on them.  I don’t think in text-sized sentences. “Yes.” “See u then.” Like that.

And the abbreviations make me nervous: LOL, IMHO…  I say WTF? Are the senders really laughing out loud? Do they actually opine humbly? I fear we are all descending into talking in trite-ese — worse, in trite abbreviation-ese.  Really? When I learned what “TY” meant, I was a little horrified. If someone really wanted to say Thank You, couldn’t they take the time to spell it out? TY just seems a little, well, ungratefully terse.

Anyway, on Day 1 of my official census taker status, the boxes were hand out and the official US Census Bureau iPhones were unveiled. Electricity filled the room as the other new enumerators took in their new equipment.   My stomach began to churn.

Without a moment’s hesitation, thumbs were flying over the shiny glass — like ducks to water. I was motionless, squinting at the little app icons.

I suck when it comes to my thumbs. I have no idea why two-thumb typing has become the standard, or why it’s so fast, or why everyone can do it. I find it awkward and unbalanced, the phone usually on the verge of falling out of my hand. 

I one-finger type on my Samsung – what amounts to giving my truly smart phone enough clues to figure out the word I meant so it will either suggest or correct what I’ve attempted.

But this iPhone has another type of typing entirely. The most obvious difference/hurtle is that the keyboard is tinier. Then, as I slowly typed, I noticed no spelling suggestions were forthcoming.  Then I hunted in vain for punctuation marks – nope, not even a period. And forget numbers. For those, unlike my Samsung, I had to switch to another keyboard.  Tell me again why we love iPhones?

As I typed, my fingers, usually pretty small, got bigger, unwieldier, and finally bearlike.

So who knew what I had actually typed into password stone? Not me.  When I tried to log back into my phone, it literally shook as it scolded “wrong password.”

This became a real problem when I had to change my temporary password to a permanent one, one I’d remember. Which we were told to do halfway through our first-day initiation. I typed, and, OK, sure, you can see each letter you hit, for a nanosecond, but it’s all ****’s after that. I was too nervous to multitask in the moment.

Bad. Very very bad.

I got locked out for 1 minute. Then 4. Then 15. I think they would have come with handcuffs for  any ensuing failed attempt. My trainer tried to contact The IT Department, but was put on hold hell.

Everyone waited. I sweated. If I picked up my swag and ran for the door would they be mad? No, probably relieved.

Yet I stayed. I knew  had to adapt, and fast. I wanted to do this job, and the job depended entirely on this little phone. All the questions I have to read, verbatim, to the interviewees are in there, in what I think is 6-point type. All their responses — last names, streets, etc., and notes to my fellow workers, including warnings about dangerous conditions, I need to type in there. No typos.  What if I typed “man came to door with gum” instead of “gun” (a la Woody Allen)? The next poor enumerator knocks expecting Bubblicious, and instead gets a barrel in the chest.

Part of me wants a clipboard with a piece of paper on it – a form with boxes I can tick and lines for writing in answers with a mini-golf pencil.

But I realize handwriting is so last-century.
So I’ll stop whining. Embrace the technology.

Imagine me, bi-platform.

Luddite, schmuddite.

So wish me luck, and if you‘ve got any good thumb exercises, please share.


jschensul View All →

I have two passions: animals and words. And I have managed to spend most of my life combining those two lvoes, using words to create awareness, to touch hearts, to help alleviate suffering, and to just make the world a kinder kind of place fdor all living things. I spent more than 30 years as a jo0urnalist at The Bergen Record newspaper, and have t a lifetime een using the power of words to XXX

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