That typewriter may be old, but for what it’s worth, my Grandpa never thinks to offload it. I don’t know what to make out of that. About few days in a week he will sit in front of it; typing with so much zeal you can tell from the noise. According to my mother, the machine was from his heyday as a lecturer… I heard he taught chemistry for undergraduates. Or something like that.
Admittedly the typewriter is not in bad condition. Grandpa is meticulous person when it comes to personal stuffs. The typeface is largely uncorroded; he regularly changes the ribbon; there’s no noticeable rust. It’s only… old. And noisy. At least that’s as far as I’m concerned.
The problem is, of course I’m hardly concerned. Seriously now: who cares about typewriters in this computer age? Nowadays we have Microsoft Word and Excel, for crying out loud. But Grandpa politely disagrees. He had been with that typewriter since 1960s, and never thought to leave it. Few days a week he will sit down and produce that unique sound in his house…
TICK-TOCK-TOCKTOCKTOCK. TICK-TOCKTOCK-TICK. TOCK-TOCK.
You have the idea.
My parents actually persuaded to buy him electric typewriter, but to no avail. We even tried to teach him benefits of computers—data can be saved into disks, you can delete and insert words—but even then he only had passing interest. He never wanted to part with his old companion. And we, of course, could only shrug it off.
But perhaps interestingly, I once talked about this with my mom. In fact her explanation actually made sense.
“Grandpa never likes computer, does he?”
“Why, perhaps he likes it the old way,” my mother replied. “You know, it’s been with him for decades.”
“But isn’t that old– I mean, it’s noisy and all…”
My mom then told me something—a story from her childhood.
“Back then when I was nine or ten, you know, he bought that typewriter. Office bargain. You see, before that, he couldn’t get all his lecture notes typed by his own. Often times he had to ask the secretary. Other times, he borrowed some colleagues’ typewriter.”
“Almost every night our house was filled with typewriter sound, you know? The usual ‘tick-tock-tick-tock’ thing. At first it was annoying. He liked to work deep into the night. Sometimes up until midnight we could still hear him.”
“But each day after that is good enough for us. He typed, copied and sold his lecture notes to students—we got little more income. He stayed home more often; he put on his new hobby. He sent some short stories to local paper too, you know? But rarely get published I recall. In the end everybody’s happy with that.”
“But why can’t a computer do that? Nowadays people don’t use that thing anymore!”
“One day, maybe you’d understand. There are things like sentimentality and age-old ingrained ideas… things like attachment, so to say. It’s hard to let go, see.” Then she smiled. “Why, isn’t that what people say, ‘Old dog can’t learn new trick?’ Maybe Grandpa is like that!”
Nowadays when I look at Grandpa I wonder about things. Why do you like that typewriter so much, Gramps? Why? It’s noisy, it can’t have pictures; and you can’t do backspace! But still, I realized what my mom said. It was something like sentimentality that drives him in. Things like “first typewriter that helped me do things”, “the machine that allowed me free time working all-nights”, et cetera. In the end, it’s not something exactly logical nor exactly nonsensical—rather, it’s combination of both.
Baffling, perhaps. But not outrageously nonsensical.
Still, when I think of it, isn’t that what makes human human? We attach ourselves to things that have (or had) positive values, and try clinging to it—even when we outlive its usefulness. Just like Grandpa cling to his “helpful” typewriter all this time, not interested at all with its modern counterpart…
I wonder if that applies to other things, too.
(disclaimer: the above story is fiction and largely metaphorical)