Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How Typing Saved a Life

A few weeks ago, Little Dude and I were driving to school when he declared, "Typing saved Great-grandpa's life."

It's true.

The little one and I had spent that previous Sunday at my grandparent's house and Little Dude got to hear some of my grandpa's stories. I love his stories. And one of my favorite stories, which I never tire of hearing, is about the time typing saved his life.

It was during the Korean War. My grandpa's unit was overseas and a commander needed a clerk. So they asked anyone who knew how to type to take a typing test.

According to my grandparents, back in those days, not many men knew how to type as it was considered a woman's job. But my grandpa has always liked learning new things and he had learned how to type.

All the privates who knew how to type were huddled together in a small wooden room waiting to take the typing test. It was freezing cold outside and the room had a little stove heater for warmth. All the other men were huddled around the heater stretching their hands towards the small fire to warm up their fingers. They kept inviting my grandpa to come over and warm up his hands by the stove, but he declined. He put his backside to toward the stove instead letting the heat warm up his body. He was raised on a farm and spent many cold mornings milking cows. He knew from experience that the best way to warm up your fingers was to stick them under your arms and let your body heat warm them.

Soon the time came for the typing test. According to my grandpa, everyone else's hands started stiffening up as soon as they were away from the warm stove. He managed to best them with his typing speed and was assigned the job.

So how did it save his life?

My grandpa stayed behind as the rest of his unit was sent out. He said farewell to his friends and brothers in arms planning to see them again. But none of them returned. Not one.

He never gave us a lot of details about what happened to his unit. When he talks about it, his eyes tear up as if it happened recently. Sometimes I wonder if he feels guilty about not going out with the rest of his unit. But I'm selfishly glad that he was spared... whether it was because he knew how to type or knew how to warm up his hands or even just a stroke of luck.

You never know what "useless" skill could one day prove handy. You never know what menial assignment could one day change the course of your life. I hope that's the lesson Little Dude learned from that story. Hopefully he'll have many chances to hear the story from his great-grandpa and let the lesson sink in.

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