What happens when you learn a new skill and then don’t use it for say, 10 years or more? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
When I was earning a living as a geek/network engineer I had to learn to speed read to keep up with all the technical magazines and management crapola that came across my desk each day. In the beginning it was easy, but as technology and computers in general began to change 2 or 3 times a day, my reading stack was reaching toward the sky and there was no stopping it.
I will brag here and say I did quite well in my speed reading classes. It may have been a gender issue. I was in a class full of navy pilots and Blue Angels. I wasn’t about to nose dive around those cuties.
When you begin to learn speed reading techniques, at first your speed will increase but your comprehension will decrease. As you learn more the two will begin to move toward each other, or so I was told. If you stop using the skill, everything you ever knew gets put into a dusty closet without a key.
As predicted, on the first test I read about 278 wpm with 98% comprehension. Not bad for an average American Adult. Then things went all wrong. The flashing numbers looked like hangman figures. The numbers flashed so fast in front of my eyes I was afraid to blink which made my contacts dry out which made everything blurry and resemble standardized testing answer sheets. My teacher, who taught Moses to read, used a thing called a tachistoscope that he salvaged from the Ark.
That machine could think and flash faster than the guy in the park wearing the trench coat. It flashed, and we were tested on what we saw. Rorschach would have been proud of me. I missed every one of them but I did come up with some pretty creative guesses.
Flash by flash most of us improved. Week after week we showed up to be trained in the art of deciphering blotches of black on a white screen. I thought it was much like teaching people with subliminal messages. We hadn’t a clue what we were seeing but we followed blindly.
And then the eyes and the brain began to communicate. Slowly the reading speed increased and so did the comprehension. By the end of the class I was reading 2100 wpm at an 87% comprehension rate.
I could now amaze people at cocktail parties and win bets with my impressive skills. Just don’t ask me to read books to children.
A few years after this marvelous feat I changed jobs and no longer used my skills on a daily basis. I read for pleasure and not for work.
I was a rebel.
I pronounced every word and enjoyed every second of it.
I would even go back and reread sections to enjoy a second time.
I let my mind wander knowing that I could re-read without being persecuted for my slowness.
I enjoyed my new liberated self.
Today if I read in a hurry I misread. It can make life interesting. It can also make you shake your head and wonder whatthefreaking thing did I just read?
Take this morning’s offering of e-mails. As normal, I was perusing the subjects of my e-mails to see which ones I wanted to read first. Yes, I like my dessert before my vegetables. I noticed one from a place I was not familiar with – House of White Bitches.
I then noticed the subject. The first four letters were RSVP. Huh? The House of White Bitches wants a reply from me? Really?
I often refer to myself as a Bitch, but only when I put Queen in front of it. I even lovingly call my friends ‘bitch’ from time to time (note the word lovingly. It is never derogatory.)
I did not however know there was a house for white bitches. And what’s up with the segregation. Is the year not 2012?
I hurriedly read through my chosen e-mails and then went to necessary evil ones, of which The House of White Bitches was last. The entire time that stupid e-mail sat giving me the evil eye. I summoned my courage and opened the damn thing.
It implored me to explore.
It beckoned for me to be a creative woman.
It solicited my involvement.
It offered me the option of joining a craft of the month club.
Huh? Crafts for Bitches? WTH?
I read again, this time with care and less speed.
It was from the House of White Birches.
I’m used to winning foreign lotteries. I’m familiar with e-mails selling enhancements for every part of the human anatomy. I’m even getting used to my long lost relatives who live in Nigeria asking for monetary assistance. But this – this came as a surprise.
I’ve decided it would be wise to give up speed reading unless I’m surrounded my navy pilots. They understand lunacy.
From the life and mind of:
Wanda M. Argersinger
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