Innocence Ain’t What It Used To Be

Since I was a teenager in the 1950s, my “awareness” of life and some of it’s more “adult” themes was, at age 18, not what the youth of today would understand. Let’s face it. When I was a teenager, “I Love Lucy” was the biggest show on television and “Lucy” and “Ricky” slept in twin beds. In fact, any time a married couple’s bedroom was shown on television or in the movies, they had twin beds. Even in the 1960s, on the Dick Van Dyke Show, Rob and Laura Petrie had twin beds. All this is by way of letting you know that young, unmarried girls (at least those in the group I grew up with) lived in an atmosphere that didn’t impart much knowledge about sex.So, having set the stage, I will tell you about an incident that occurred on my first job after high school. A week after graduation, I got a position at Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company as a stenographer in the State Engineering Department. I was part of a “steno pool” of girls whotook some dictation but mostly typed up huge equipment specifications.In those days, the Telephone Company was preparing the way for “Ten Digit Direct Dialing”. This meant the state was building a large number of microwave repeater stations to bring about this new technology. Each repeater had to have specifications written to include every nut, bolt, screw or other building material that was to go into the structure. As you can imagine, just one area of the building could easily generate 500 pages of listed items needed for the project. So we were kept busy transcribing the engineers handwritten notes onto “Multilith Masters” which would then be used to print off as many copies of the “specs” as needed for the people doing the building and installing.Many of the engineers used block printing (all upper case letters) when they wrote their specs. One engineer in particular had the habit of making his letter “L” and the letter “C” look very much alike. One day about two months into my job there, I had typed a large spec for that engineer of the strange Ls and Cs. When the typing was finished, the spec went back to the engineer who had written it and he would get one of the other engineers to proof read it with him. This was a critical part of the operation as you might imagine. Mistakes in the translation from pencil to printed spec could cost thousands of dollars and massive delays.So the spec I typed had been delivered back to Mr. Krebs, the engineer who wrote it, and they were proofing it. Up front, the steno pool was busy with new projects when we  heared small titters of laughter. This quickly spread until it seemed the entire engineering staff was having a great laugh about something. Our Chief Steno, Nancy, who was only 22 years old but was married, and therefore an “older” woman, went back to find out what was going on.

Very shortly, Nancy came back with a remarkable bright, pink blush on her face. She quickly inquired, “Who typed up that spec for Krebs?”

I raised my hand, “I did,” says me.

Nancy rushed over to me and lowered her voice, “Do you know what you did?”

Now, all the other stenos were crowded around my desk to see what was up. “No,” I replied, truly puzzled.

Nancy took a breath, eyes wide with horror. “You typed a ‘C’ instead of an ‘L’, hundreds of times.” But I didn’t get it. Okay, so I’d have to make all those corrections. We had to do it all the time when we couldn’t read the engineers’ writing. But what was the big deal and what was so funny?

“But the word you were supposed to type was ‘Lock Washer’. Don’t you get it?” She was incredulous.

“No,” I said. “So what?” Now the other stenos started to snicker as she leaned over and whispered into my ear the significance of the word I had typed over and over.

I was mortified, but the worst was to come. When she went back to the group of engineers and told them that even after she had explained my error to me, I still didn’t get it, the laughter that erupted was even greater than before.

That was why a couple of months after that, they got another great laugh at my expense, and my reputation was sealed forever with these guys.

I had been called for dictation with one of the equipment and building engineers. He dictated a letter indicating they were trying to secure a Jeep with a “winch” on the hood for a project they were working on. I took the dictation, typed up the letter and returned it for his signature. The next thing I knew, the entire group was in stitches again. It seems that a “wench” is a young lady in some circles, and I had typed that the Jeep would have a “wench” mounted on the hood instead of the intended “winch.” Who knew?

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