Southern Writing

You try to warn them. You do. “This stuff has a lot to answer for …

Your brain on cursive

…like fast women, hot cars, liquor and Satan,” you say. “Don’t make the same mistake as me … the same mistake a lot of us made.  It puts the whole society on a slippery slope down the road to ruin. Find another way, kid … or you’ll end up like me.”

But kids often don’t listen. (I didn’t.) And the opposition is more organized … has more money.

So you pray the situation gets better. It hardly ever does though and soon, somebody starts asking questions. You just hope the Feds don’t get involved.

I call your attention to a recent dustup in the schools. Along with proposed closings, reduced budgets and what’s really in the mystery meat served in the cafeteria, an ongoing issue is “should we still teach cursive handwriting?”

You remember cursive: that  high-concept  concoction of fancy loops, flared lines and dangerous curves promulgated by second grade teachers to confound innocent children … about the difference between a “Q” and a “2 or between a “D” and an “O” or an “m” and an “n”. ___________________________________________________

In our collective psyche, we all know the dangers of cursive.  Especially trying to write it.“I’m different … no problemo,” one says to oneself.  Then comes the downward spiral into inevitable illegibility. Afterwards comes the wondering, the cursing, the crying, the missed opportunities…and the regret.  “If only I hadn’t …”:

“Will, what the $%^&$ does this %^&*$ message say?” “Heck, Booger, I dunno.  Beats me. Can’t tell what I wrote down myself. Sorry, fella. Good luck.”

Or,“Who took this message? I bet it was that darn Cantrell. Was it ‘Sammy’ who called, or was it ‘Sonny’? Can’t tell by looking at this $%^&*.

There’s an evil, more sinister side to cursive too. Its been complicit in the centuries old conspiracy by doctors and pharmacists in the distribution of behind the counter drugs.  (I refer you to Dr. Goodman’s last script.)  The stuff has also been used by every co-worker, who ever lived to cleverly conceal the true identity of who actually called “While You Were Out.” ___________________________________________________

The writer’s own handwriting has been evaluated as “ … a sorry bunch of miserable scribbles and pathetic scratch marks made by someone who must have been raised by wolves.”  This description was offered by a secretary, who was, at the time, threatening bodily harm over the issue. (I summarily purchased a dictation machine. The caper would’ve worked too, except the contraption was bogarted by a corporate higher up, his scrawls being worse than my own.)

My own troubles started early. In addition to railing against “ …Satan, Godless communism and that sexpot, Marilyn Monroe,” the nuns at St. Kennedy’s Catholic elementary school spent endless hours drilling us on the theory of three humped “Ms,” properly looped “Js” as well as “Qs,” and “2s” that looked so remarkably alike they could have been at least fraternal twins.  “2 + Q = 4,” one concluded!

In the Gospel According to Nuns, penmanship and salvation are ruthlessly intertwined.  Our sisters even told the legend of how Moses, on his way back from Mt. Sinai, stumbled to the ground, shattering a third stone tablet. Written in hieroglyphics, it contained an Eleventh Commandment which said “Thou Shall Write Real Good!”

Obsessive and relentless in teaching the dark art, the nuns used rhymes, repetition, orchestral accompaniment, calisthenics and fear tactics. Something known among left-wing Progressives as Writing Rehab, but known among children as ‘After School Detention’ was also a technique. The latter required young culprits to write 500 times , “I must not write bad words on the bathroom walls.” In cursive, of course.

Sadly, today, I remain a marginally functional hand-writer, an owner of a signature that often elicits a painful shriek from the receiver (“What the …!”)  something said to remind one of what surely must be Egyptian lower-glyphics.  I necessarily conclude that cursive is intended for use by high performance nuns, 17th century Puritans, Michelangelo and a few show-offs with too much time to kill. ___________________________________________________

On the Matter of Cursive in the schools, ‘Just Say NO!” Schools are where the problems begin. Remove it, where never again can it frustrate unsuspecting children or decent, law-abiding adults. Of course, when you just say no, PLEASE  PRINT.

Lastly, on the matter of that message that you took for me, “While I Was Out”: is that thing next to the “l” , an “S” or a “5”?

© Copyright 2011 Will Cantrell

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Will Cantrell

Will Cantrell

Will Cantrell (a pseudonym) is a writer, storyteller, and explorer of the milieu of everyday life. An aging Baby Boomer, a Georgia Tech grad, and a retired banker, Cantrell regularly chronicles what he swears are 'mostly true'  'everyman' adventures. Of late, he's written about haircuts, computer viruses, Polar Vortexes, identity theft, ketchup, doppelgangers, bifocals, ‘Streetification’, cursive handwriting, planning his own funeral and other gnarly things that caused him to scratch his head in an increasingly more and more crazy-ass world.   As for Will himself, the legend is at an early age he wandered South, got lost, and like most other self-respecting males, was loathe to ask for directions. The best solution, young Will mused, “was just to stay put”. All these years later, he still hasn't found his way but remains  a son of the New South. He was recently sighted somewhere close to I-285, lost, bumfuzzled and mumbling something about “...writing' his way home.” Of course, there are a lot of folks who think that “Cantrell ain't wrapped too tight” but hope that he keeps writing about his adventures as he finds his way back to the main highway.