Years ago in L.A. I reviewed theatre. I typed weekly articles on my electric typewriter, drove them to the newspaper office or, when it became possible, faxed them from a local shop. No one I knew had a fax of their own yet. Email was not yet available.
A writer friend invited me to visit his cabin high in the San Bernadino mountains. It was a beautiful spot which gave us a break from the heat of the city, but I had a review to do.
‘Not to worry,’ he assured, ‘I’ve got a portable typewriter up there.’
‘Does it work?’
I believed him. Why would he lie? He was a successful playwright. Naturally he’d have a typewriter that worked, right? And I first learned typing on an old manual typewriter so it ought to be okay. Off we went.
First thing next morning, I settled in comfortably on the large outdoor veranda under the shade of huge ancient trees — the kind you know have lived for generations. Sheets of paper and typewriter at the ready. Coffee close at hand, I took a deep breath of the fresh air and started typing.
The name of the play eludes me, it wasn’t that memorable, but the word ‘love’ was in the title. The typewriter managed the first two words without a problem. I managed to press the keys hard enough until I reached the O in the word LOVE. It didn’t work. I tried again. No luck. The third time I pushed that O, I realized I was in trouble. How can you write a whole article about a play about love without an O.
What to do? I sipped more coffee and glared at that stupid, stubborn typewriter. How dare it do that to me? It didn’t react. Then I glared at my friend. How come he didn’t know the O didn’t work? How could HE do this to me. I guarantee the words coming out of my mouth weren’t pearls.
His excuse? He didn’t go there to write. He spent his time climbing mountain trails, not working. Admittedly, his portable typewriter had obviously been ignored. He didn’t know the O was in trouble.
After I tired of scolding everything and everyone, I finished my coffee, concentrated on that tired little typewriter, and decided to write that review come hell or high water. Have you ever known me to give up? No way! I would write that darned review by skipping a space every time a word called for an O. It slowed me down — a lot. It took a lot of coffee. It took a lot of time, but I managed the approximate 500 words by inserting a space wherever an O belonged.
After completing my masterpiece, I carefully inserted an O by hand in each space. Was it perfect? No. The O’s stood out from the light gray of the old typewriter ribbon and tended to be of various sizes and shapes, but it said what I wanted it to.
Off to the village post-office we went to fax the piece to my editor. It was done on time, retyped by a clerk at their office, and published. I had managed it after all and my reputation was intact.
Later, the editor told me he was so amused by my handwritten O’s throughout my review, he showed it to everyone who would take a moment to look at it, including the mailman. He then tacked it up on the bulletin board where it remained for months to come. I became famous with that Hollywood paper. What fun!