Allow me set the stage: you're in Santa Monica. It's early. Dawn. Not yet bright. The sand feels great beneath your naked feet. Your morning walk is a ritual. Nine miles by 9 a.m. Toronto, Santa Monica, Montreal, Melbourne, Perth, Barcelona, Sumatra. Nine miles by 9 a.m. no matter where you are. Then, if there's an ocean, you step into it.
You learned the pleasure of being beyond the break on your first trip: Havana. To float and tread and exercise your bad left foot. It feels good. Sometimes there are dolphins. Occasionally surfers, paddle boarders. Other swimmers. The sun's coming up.
Today there's something else. Large, with a big fin. You're curious, but not that curious. You tread without going farther. Wait for it to surface again. It does. Dolphin-grey? Shark-black!
You kick-out, towards the shore. Calm. Even. Looking back for it. Marvel, not panic. You reach the sand. You take your phone from your shoe, turn back to the horizon.
The fish is still close, but moving south. You grab your shoes, which still hold your wallet and headphones. Your foldable Microsoft Keyboard wedged in the left.
You scoot along the shoreline, keeping your target in sight. Ten feet. Twenty. Thirty. The fish turns north and you drop everything but the phone to the sand.
You wade to your shins. Your knees. Your thighs. Farther. Genital-level commitment. The waves are larger but still manageable. You turn on video, search for the creature. Your reflexes have sucked since your stroke. Maybe it's not related. Maybe you're just old. The shark submerges before you can get it filmed. Three times. Four. You get a bit on the fifth attempt.
A larger wave is coming. Quick as you can, you raise the phone high above the water. Your face and body take it full on. It's gonna leave a mark. Incredibly, you remain standing. The camera is dry, but you know before you turn that you've misjudged the tide. Your shoes and wallet are soaked. Your keyboard farther up the sand. Drenched. Filthy. Can writing be done today? This trip? Remember the trip's purpose? Finish your book.
You're at the kitchen table. You take the keyboard apart. Sand and water and grit. A tiny ecosystem under the keys. Cleaned and re-assembled, it won't function. Flat-line. Toast.
You remember Waytools is in Santa Monica. Wilshire and something. You send them an email. Explain your predicament. Beg for TREG.
They write back quickly. Sympathetically. But... "Not fair to let you jump the line. Yes, you purchased in February 2015, but you took a refund in late 2016 before recently repurchasing. Others have been waiting."
Days pass. You write by hand. It's slow. It sucks. There's no flow. Your handwriting is chicken-scratch. The stroke? No, it's always been.
Waytools reaches out. Still no TREG, "but since you're just down the street, how would you like to stop by and try one out? See it's not vaporware." You agree to Friday. End of the workday.
You sit down with Mark, the company's founder. He looks a bit like Ian McShane circa Sexy Beast.
He hands you an envelope. "Unaddressed, but otherwise just like you'll be getting in the mail."
"Soon?" you want to ask.
Besides his appearance, you notice his curiosity. His passion. He watches as you open the envelope. Slide out the box. He comments on the packing -- material specifically designed to ship the TextBlade -- lightweight, sturdy, well thought-out.
Over the course of the trial, you notice these details travel. They've got legs: the smartness of the box; the way the product rests inside; the keyboard itself. Everything seems perfectly planned. Hindsight allows that, but you wonder how many decisions it took to get here.
The keyboard looks just as you imagined -- as it's been pictured and video'd for two years -- but smaller. You curse yourself for the temporary refund. You remember your TIA and the worry about finances before things turned around.
Smaller but not small. The right size.
The keys are both slight and sturdy. They tap and click as keys should tap and click but as no keys you've ever touched have tapped or clicked. Oh! This is what typing is supposed to feel like. Hindsight.
You churn out Eliot: This is rhr qay thw woeld rnds. Nor eith a vang bur a whimper.
Sixty-two characters. You make 9 mistakes. All with your left hand. Your stroke hand. You type the sentence again: This is thr way thw woeld rnds. Nor eith a vang bur a whimper. Seven left-handed mistakes.
Churchill: Noq is rhe time foe all good mwn to comr to the aid of the party. Five on the left.
You put the keyboard aside. You talk to Mark. More passion. More curiosity. He asks you about what you write, how often, keyboards in your life and what you think of them. You tell him about your Pixel LS, your iPad Pro, your waterlogged Microsoft. He shares your opinions, but expresses them more concisely and with greater conviction. He gives you numbers, measurements, statistics. They're interesting, but none of them stick. You're distracted by the TextBlade. It's sitting right there!
He runs some WayTools software. Shows you under the hood. Like a mechanic showing you mechanic things -- torque! -- or an ultrasound tech showing you images of your future child. Oooh, you think. Will you look at that! It's both technical and fascinating -- but really you just want to hold the thing.
So you do. You pick it up. Type Eliot again. This is the way the world ends. Not eith a bang but a whimoer. Two mistakes. One on each side. Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party. No mistakes. This thing is fantastic! For someone who works with words, it's life-changing.
Mark excuses himself. You turn to the TextBlade. If she's anywhere, she's everywhere. I wake and reach for her, finding only darkness. Does she sleep, too, and dream that I surround her?
We're trapped in a cycle, turning to power this earth. Gods wager on the consequence of our inevitable union.
You consider grabbing the TextBlade and making a run for it. Is it still stealing if you've already paid for it? You sit and wait. You want to talk with him more.
He returns with a handful of his competitors. Five or six portable keyboards from other manufacturers, including the model the salt-water took from you. MicroSoft and LG and brands you've never heard of. Without touching them, you know it's over. A joke. They're not competition. They're done.
Once the TextBlade comes out, anyone who touches it will refuse to use anything else. You picture yourself travelling with a knapsack on your back and your trusty Galaxy Note in your pocket next to your TextBlade. No use for laptops and their unwanted touchpads and bulk. No need for big-screen tablets with glass or rubber keys and features you don't need.
You wrap up your talk and thank Mark for his time and ingenuity. Before you leave, you consider begging.
Days pass. You fly out of Santa Monica on Wednesday. You type this piece on Tuesday. You wish you were writing it on a TextBlade.