That was one of the first lines I learned in typing class. Why you ask? Because it contains every letter of the alphabet.
After I left university, I wasn’t sure what to do. My mother had been a secretary and a very good one. She encouraged, as only she could, to follow in her footsteps. I had never wanted an office job, but without any other prospects, I decided to give it a try. And in retrospect, it eventually opened some important doors down the road.
In February 1979 I enrolled at Marie Tomko College where, over ten months, I would learn everything from shorthand and typing to business English and bookkeeping. I excelled at almost everything… except typing.
I could not get the hang of touch typing. If I was accurate I was slow. When I would quicken my pace, I would make too many mistakes and end up with a low score anyway. By the time my scheduled ten months were up I was at 44.4 words per minute. The minimum to pass was 45. I was so close but the harder I tried the worse it got.
A decision had to be made. I was running out of money and if I was to continue I would be paying month by month. I was tired and just wanted to get on with things. On the other hand, it was December and the chances of getting a job were not good because of Christmas and the end of the year.
I decided that I would start looking for work and if in one month I didn’t have a job I would go back to school and get my typing speed up. The search started on December 10, 1979.
Most of the places I applied at wanted a higher typing speed or they were for more junior positions like filing or even the mail room. I didn’t spend ten months of hard work and money to work in a mail room.
It was beginning to look like I was to eat crow and go back to school. Christmas had come and gone and we were into the new year. However, in that first week of January, I got my first call-back interview… during a rare for Vancouver blizzard!
It took me just over the usual hour to get into town by bus. I was very nervous as I was meeting the Vice President of the department I would be working in. I got into his office and could see the snow coming down very heavy through the windows of his 12th-floor window. He was nice enough and I felt a little more at ease.
While I tried very hard not to show it, I was quite frustrated by his questions. He asked (as many people did) if my last name was French. He also asked if the weather we were having made me homesick for the prairies. There were a couple more similar questions then he asked if I had any. I was so blown away by the fact he wasn’t asking anything about my work skills and distracted by the snow and how I would get home, that I honestly didn’t have any questions of my own.
And that was the end of the interview.
I was between tears and rage. I came all the way from home in a blizzard for this? But I had well over 2 hours on the bus to contemplate my next steps. So, I would be giving in to my parents and my school, registering for a month at a time to get that typing speed up and maybe taking some other courses that could help. I was really feeling lost and unsure this was the path I wanted to be on.
When we got to my city, I had to change buses to go up our hill. The bus made it halfway up the backside and got stuck. I was the last person on the bus and the driver said that I should get out there because he wasn’t going to make it further. So, in a dress, boots and not warm enough coat I plodded through the snow through a back way to my street that never was plowed.
When I arrived I was cold and tired but told my Mom that yes, I would start shoveling the driveway for Dad so I could keep on top of it through the night (he closed the store at 9 pm). It was actually good medicine because I took out all my frustrations on the snow. I also helped shovel out three cars that got stuck on our hill.
While I was out there my Mom came to say I had a phone call. I said to take a message but she said I would want to take this one. In those days there were no cell phones or even cordless ones so I had to come in through the basement, take off my snow gear, go up the stairs and into the kitchen.
But it was worth it. The call was from the HR person I originally interviewed with. She said the VP was very happy with how our interview went and the job was mine!
Say what? After that interview?
Anyways, I didn’t question it and started work January 10, 1980, exactly one month after my ultimatum to myself. It was with a Trust company in their mortgage department and I was a file clerk, foreclosure and release documents clerk and relief secretary to the VP I interviewed with. I later became secretary to the AVP of residential mortgages and then Branch Assistant over the four years I worked there.
Did my typing speed ever quicken?
Yes, when I was looking for a new job I was timed at 92.5 words per minute!