He’s only a waiter

About six months ago I was sitting in a pub writing up some notes for my novel. Several people had, very kindly, read an early draft for me and I had interviewed each of them to get their feedback. This had created lots of notes and I was trying to pull them together into some kind of document.

I was therefore sitting in the pub with the notes to one side of my laptop and was typing them up. I touch type and so I can look around while I type. This can be rather disconcerting for people, but usually I don’t use my touch typing just to do this, most usefully I can concentrate on the notes I am typing up which makes the copying of them much faster. This is one of the main places where you really see how much faster touch typists are than those who hunt and peck.

So as I was working away, a group of guys wandered into the pub. They didn’t seem like Londoners and I was slightly distracted by their boisterousness. They were a bunch of about 10 guys and I was trying to work out what the connection between them was. They were all wearing jackets, the younger guys from the group were wearing jeans, the older guys were wearing chinos. I realised that some of them didn’t know each other and were being introduced. Some seemed to know each other well but hadn’t seen each other for a while. The younger guys, who were in their twenties, all seemed to be sons of a couple of the older guys.

I couldn’t work it out, so I put my head down and started doing some more typing. While I was concentrating on my typing, I wasn’t looking at them but clearly I was causing a bit of a stir. They were obviously trying to play the same game with me – what was I doing? Eventually one of them came over to me and said, “Excuse me?”.

“Yes, hello,” I replied.
“Can I ask what you do?,” one of the parents asked.
“Sorry, it’s just that we noticed you typing at… Well typing pretty bloody fast and we were trying to work out what you were doing.”
“Ah, I’m a writer.”
“Right okay, thanks. Sorry to disturb.”

I kind of tried to look back down and get back to work but I couldn’t help but overhear them discussing me.

“He said he’s a waiter”, said the guy who had come over to me.
“He’s only a waiter. Told you, Will,” said another parent addressing his son. “Everybody can type properly nowadays, not just secretaries.”
“He said ‘writer’ not ‘waiter’,” Will replied, “Bob’s as deaf as you Dad.”

Bob shuffled back towards me.

“Excuse me, sorry to disturb, did you say you were a waiter?”
“No, sorry,” I replied, “I’m a writer.”
“Well that would explain the fast typing.”
“I suppose it would. I do type a lot.”
“Well thank you for your time.”

Bob made to head back to his group, but before he left I wanted to get a question in.

“What do you fellows do?”
“Ah, well we’re all farmers. I’m a Potato farmer myself.”
“Farmers eh…”
“Yes, well in the main. Steven and his son over there,” he pointed over to Will and his dad, “are leek farmers.”
“I could make a soup with you two.”
“Absolutely, and it would be bloody lovely, here’s my card. Steven where’s your card.”

Steven strode over and suddenly I had the business cards of a potato farmer and a leek farmer.

Steven turned to Bob and said, “What’s he want with our cards?”
Bob said, “I’m going to get him to put us in his book,” then he turned back to me and said, “now what’s your name and while you’re telling me that, let me buy you a pint.”

5 thoughts on “He’s only a waiter

  1. Rowan Winter says:

    I touch type (I was taught in the late 80s on an electronic typewriter) and for some reason, it really freaks people out. I used to work with someone who’d been taught to type on a manual (proper old school) and she sat across from me. Our party trick was that if someone came into the office to ask a question, we’d both turn to look at them while continuing to type. And then answer their question without stopping.

    Although the thing I do that really really freaks people out is to do take notes in shorthand – when I worked in an office full of serious techies, it was the only thing I could do that impressed them. Shame I never learned to do stenography and then I’d have the full set of freaky secretarial skills 🙂

    Are you going to put the farmers in your novel, btw?

  2. My typing’s been known to freak people out, but only because it’s really, really noisy. A lot of people like my typing speed but they don’t tend to be particularly surprised – unless they happen to look over a live-commenting transcript or something after the event.

  3. I love doing the looking up while continuing to type trick. Soon after I learned to touch type when my brother would come into a room I would do the old repeating everything he said thing, by spinning a screen around, looking him straight in the eye and typing whatever he was saying. He didn’t like it.

    The farmers don’t really fit as far as I can tell, but I’ll see if I can make it work.

  4. kris says:

    Did you really say “fellows”? I mean, really?

  5. You know I think I probably did.

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