Typing is not a brutish, masculinizing sort of work, mind you. In fact, one might even go so far as to argue that the work of a typist the simple act of taking dictation, the crisp dance of ?ngertips with their dainty staccato over the shorthand keysis perhaps one of the most civilized forms of work our modern world has to offer. And they needn't worry about the rest of it; a good typist knows her place. She is simply happy, as a woman, to be paid a reasonable income.
In any case, if typing were truly a masculine activity, you would see more men doing it, and of course you don't. It is always women one sees typing, so it only follows that it must be an activity more suited to them. I have, in all my time, only met one male typist, and that particular gentleman's delicate constitution was even lesser equipped than my own for working in a police precinct. I should've known from the ?rst he would not stay long. He had the nervous carriage of a small bird, and his mustache looked as though it was trimmed daily by a barber. He wore a pair of very well-kept white spats over his shoes. On his second day a criminal expectorated a large stream of tobacco juice on them. The male typist, I'm sorry to report, turned very pale and excused himself to go to the lavatory. He only stayed one more week after that. White spats, the Sergeant had remarked, shaking his head. The Sergeant's clucking is often his manner of con?ding in me. White spats have no place here, he said, and I knew he was probably glad to be rid of such a dandy.
Of course, I did not point out to the Sergeant that the Lieutenant Detective also wears white spats. The Lieutenant Detective and the Sergeant are two very different sorts of men, but they appear to have long ago struck an uneasy alliance. It has always been my distinct impression that I am not to outwardly tip my favor in the direction of either man, lest it upset the tenuous balance that allows for their cooperation. But if I am being honest, I will tell you I feel more at ease around the Sergeant. He is older and perhaps a little fonder of me than a married man ought to be, but I feel it is a fatherly sort of fondness and that he became a police sergeant in the ?rst place because he is a righteous man and he honestly believes it is his mission to uphold the proper order of our great city.
Moreover, the Sergeant likes all things to keep proper order and takes great pride in following all rules to the letter. Just last month he suspended one of the officers, sentencing the man to a whole week without pay, because the officer had given a homeless waif who was waiting in the holding cell a ham sandwich. I could see why maybe the officer did it; the vagabond was such a sad spectaclethe outline of his ribs whispered indiscreetly against the thin cloth of his shirt, and his eyes rolled like haunted marbles caught in two deep, dark sockets. No one accused the Sergeant of
being unchristian, but I believe he could tell some of the other men were thinking it. Feeding such a man only sends the message that there is no pro?t in hard work and following the rulesand we can't afford to bankrupt these ideas, the Sergeant reminded us.
The Lieutenant Detective outranks the Sergeant, but you would never know it. While he can certainly intimidate others at will, the Sergeant is not a tall man, although he is large in other ways. The great bulk of his weight sits around his waist, just over the rim of his uniform trousers, giving him a reassuringly paternal paunch. His handlebar mustache has taken on a sprinkling of salt and pepper in recent years. He wears it curled and also lets his sideburns grow long, which is no longer in keeping with the latest fashion, but the Sergeant cares little for changing fashions, and he does not go in at all for the newest shocking ones. Once while he was reading a newspaper, I heard him idly remark that today's modern fashions are proof of our nation's degeneration.
Excerpted from The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell. Copyright © 2013 by Suzanne Rindell. Excerpted by permission of Amy Einhorn Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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