Saturday, March 24, 2012

Typing Wars

At the office I have several contractors that work in my division, with various backgrounds.  Dan is a younger guy who did 4 years in communications while in the Army, Anthony is a former Army medic who is now a Command Sergeant Major in the Reserves, Ross and Ken are retired Air Force Tech Sergeants.  There are a lot of personalities and points of view that make work interesting, especially when you throw in the 4 active duty NCOs that fill out the team.

Each person has their own strengths and weaknesses, and I couldn't help but notice that Anthony, a fired-up guy with great leadership skills who is always ready for go time (not surprising considering his position in the Reserves) is a painfully slow typer.  I've met plenty of people who hunt and peck, some with real proficiency that rivals traditional typing speed, at least when compared to slower typers.  Anthony was not one of those folks.  He really does look like he's hunting and pecking when he types.  Being the great boss that I am, I not only gave him heapings of grief over his typing (dude, did you drop some bread crumbs on your keyboard and now you're trying to find them or what?) but I also encouraged him to get some typing software and learn how to type for reals.

Anthony, being the great guy that he is, actually went out and bought "Mavis Beacon" typing software and has begun working through the lessons, and at home no less!  I wouldn't mind him doing them at work, considering it will more than pay off in productivity over the long haul.  Fortunately, before gaining this new proficiency he chose to try and defend his current abilities one day when I was ribbing him on how slowly he types.  He claimed that he could type 50 words per minute his way, while I put his speed at no more than 20 wpm.  This challenge led to Ross bringing up an online typing test to see who was really right.  Typing Wars 2012 was on!

By the time Anthony started taking his typing test a small group had gathered around the computer, watching with a baited tension comparable to what the crowd must have felt as Ralph Macchio lined up on the mat opposite that snotty blond haired kid in the first Karate Kid movie.  Unfortunately, Anthony got both legs swept by the typing text about astronauts.

Watching  for the longest 60 seconds as his gaze went from the screen to the keyboard, with fingers poised for several seconds, followed by a deliberate striking of a couple of keys, then head back up looking at the screen again, then back down to the keyboard, a hesitation while searching, then finding the right one, striking the key, then back to the screen again, repeated over and over, would have been painful to watch, had it not been so funny.  At the end of the test the computer gave his results: 18 wpm, with 7 errors.  I struggled to decide which to give him a harder time about - the fact that he types less than 20 wpm or that almost half of his words, even at that glacial speed, had errors in them.

Of course then the guys made me sit down and take my turn at the test, which was followed by everyone else trying to beat my score.  At the end of it all my results stood on top: 58 wpm with 2 errors.  A couple of guys got pretty close, but no one was able to top me, although an average secretary would blow my score out of the water.  I'll admit that it was kind of fun to win the ad hoc contest, although it was more fun to remind Anthony that since I type 5 times faster than him, once he learns to type he will be able to knock out a document in 12 minutes that would take him an hour to do today.  That will be like having an extra guy in the shop!  In all honesty though I would take 10 Anthonys, even without any typing skills, if they all had the same passion and professionalism as he has.  I'm really fortunate to have great guys like him working for me.  But that doesn't mean I'm going to stop poking fun at them - how would they know I care?