Why I don’t smoke

Lettera 22, and Lettera 32
I’ll be talking a little more about these two typewriters sometime in the near future, but right now I want to talk about my most recent attempt at dunking typewriters. You may recall that I successfully attempted a dunking on a Hermes 3000 70’s model a little while ago. Since then I have dunked a few more typers with mostly positive outcomes. Until today. Here’s a moment I’d like to share with you. 

Okay kids, hop in the bath and play nicely… 
L22, What’s that….. is that….. OH NO! 
God no! no! NO!…….. Stop!…. STOOOOOOP!

Damn. I hate it when the kids poo in the bath. 

The lettera 22 was in remarkably good condition when I bought it on eBay. The case was excellent for the age of the machine, and the paint had no wear. All the metal parts still gleamed as though they were  new. For a machine that is approaching 50 years old, I thought I had scored. 
I’d seen these machines before, and when I saw it on ebay – lonely and with no bids (they had spelled typewriter wrong) I threw an offer in, and was surprise to have won the auction. The machine LOOKED in excellent condition in the photos. 
When It arrived, I looked over it an was mostly pleased. But it seemed a little off colour from the version of this machine I had seem previously. The green didn’t quite pop out as nicely, but the paint still looked unworn, with the exception of a very light scratch – which would probably ‘buff out’. 
Never mind, I thought as I gave it a bit of a tap on the keys. This is when I discovered that a handful of the typebars were a little lazy. A sign that there was some dirt, oil or something else in the segment. I thought about just trying to work the segment clean, until I also noticed what seemed to be thin film of ink smudged down the side of the typewriter. 
I was going to dunk a Lettera 32, so I decided I would just put the Lettera 22 into the bath with it, and just let the hot and soapy water shift a bit of the residual junk. Neither machine seemed particularly dirty, and I was pretty confident I wouldn’t be transferring dirt from one to the other. 
The first hint I had of there being something wrong was the smell. I knew the smell, and I couldn’t quite place it at first. As the water level raised in the bath, I also noticed something else: a pool of  black residue at the bottom of the segment. 
The pool grew a little, but kind of just kind of drifted around in the water. 
But then the pool became a rapid squirt or material rising from the bottom, and the Lettera 22 filled with an oily black/brown murk. I knew any second now it would overflow from the L22, and I reached in and snatched out the L32 to save it. 
As the body of water shifted with the removal of the L32, the L22’s black oil dispersed across the bath with almost impossible speed. It practically exploded its supply of filth into the water and I was now left with tub filled with an oily brown muck. It was like an octopus had defensively shoot its ink. 
I quickly turned off the tap, and in a moments peace memories related to the smell came back to me. Both of my parents had been heavy smokers once, and the smell of nicotine often soaked into everything. Also, in my younger student years, I had often rented dumpy old houses – many of which had walls toned brown by nicotine stains from the previous heavy smoking occupants. I still have the trauma of trying to wash that oil off the walls. 
The Lettera 22 has several patches of noise reduction foam or felt. The inky black squirt was a result of those patches releasing the load of nicotine that had been stored in them. The nicotine had come out due to the flood of hot and soapy water that was now invading into the felt – loosening up the oil. 
The moment the hot water hit the paint on the Lettera, it transformed the colour of the machine. A thin layer of nicotine had coated the machine perfectly, and this layer now dissolved rapidly into the hot and soapy water that splashed over it. You can see the residue in the photos above – where it sits in a ring around the soap suds. 
Ultimately the patients responded well to treatment. I flushed both of the machines with hot hot water straight from my shower, and managed to move most of the slick from the L22. I ended up having to shift a bit more with some wipes and cotton buds later on. 
The bath however, was horrendous. It took me over an hour to scrub clean. I was soaked thick with oil on my skin, and I felt ‘chilled’. I wasn’t exactly stressed, or even in a hurry to get myself clean. I would have expected the nicotine particles to have oxidised and degraded over time, but I guess there was enough fresh material for it to soak in to my skin somehow. *Future note – wear long gloves when dealing with old typewriters. 
Both machines now work perfectly, and I’ll be posting about them soon. I’ve seen a fair bit of discussion on the forums about the L32/L22 differences, and it is nice to have both machines side by side to have a good go at both. 
*   *   *
Just a quick but ernest note (smokers, you might want to turn away for a moment). 
I used to work in a children’s oncology ward where I learned to cope with the personal difficulties that come from watching children potentially dying every day. I was often witness to families breaking down while others only held together with increasingly strained strands of hope. We did our best for the children and families, and in 40% of cases, it wasn’t enough for the children. 
The links between smoking and cancer are not just theoretical, they are real. My father is still alive and stopped smoking 20 years ago. 2 years ago he was diagnosed with emphysema. The muck that came out of this typewriter really highlighted the pervasive and damaging level of the materials that you consume from smoking. And it really drives home the poor outcomes that come from cancer. As much as I love the romantic notion of a room filled with smoke, with the ashtray over-flowing while the writer pounds at the keyboard of this Lettera 22 creating a masterpiece – I just can’t move myself away from the grief that is caused by cancer. A cancer that most believe that they are unlikely to ever suffer, until they have it. 
Sorry to bring down the tone. I promise I’ll end the next post much more light heartedly. 

21 thoughts on “Why I don’t smoke

  1. I didn't expect the post to get so serious but it's a very real analogy, thanks.
    That said, I have dunked a couple of dirty machines myself. If the sun's not out for drying, I put it in front of an electric fan. Very effective.

    Can you send me that pistachio L-22? Just asking. (:


  2. Depending on the weather, I will either dry them in a fan forced oven – at about 75 degrees C for around an hour, or stick them on a table out in the hot sun (i'm in Queensland, AU) for about 3 hours (they are usually dry within about 40 minutes).


  3. It's disturbing how much nicotine the typer absorbed. Great color after the dunk though. I have a typer that came covered in construction dust and still smells of it even after a thorough wipe down. Wondering if I dare dunk it…


  4. Man, those photos are like a horror movie…or a crime scene! It's really no wonder the typer was a bit sluggish!

    I can really commiserate with you on this point. I'm the only non-smoker in a smoking family, and have been watching loved ones grow ill and even die from their current or former smoking habits. Cancer, heart problems, emphysema, COPD…it really makes me wonder why most of them continue to do this thing to themselves. I personally have a very violent physical reaction to smoke (allergies and scent aversion) so I don't place myself in a position to be around it often. But I've had to deal with the aftereffects on typers, and there is little worse than opening a long-sealed case and getting a blast of stale, nicotine-soaked air in the face. (Any Typospherian smoker reading this, my sincere apologies. Rest assured I think no less of you. I have my own vices and bad decisions to deal with, too; I just hope I have not offended friends.)


  5. Dunking needs a bit of planning. Checking to see if your machine is filled with wool felt, while thinking about how much you might want to disassemble the machine first. You don't have to dunk the whole machine, and it is best that you don't.

    And you need to make sure you have a way of drying it quickly, while having all your tools on hand to oil it the moment it is dry.


  6. I know there's a few smokers on here, and yeah… I kinda of worried about offending them too. It is a weird habit, smoking. It has no real benefit for you, but so often people fight for their 'freedom's to do it, when people around them try to both discourage them (out of concern) for doing it, while trying to keep the activity away from themselves.


  7. So…after the felt patches were wet, did you apply one to your arm as a nicotine patch? I can only imagine it would have worked!

    As a smoker, I am not in the least bit offended by anything said in this post or the subsequent comments. I know it is bad for me. Most things we enjoy are. I cannot justify the action, only to say I enjoy it. Cancer is terrible, most definitely. Nowadays, it seems, most anything can cause cancer…Hell, life causes cancer. I am not dismissing the facts presented here, of course, as they truthfully portray the dangers. I respect others decision to steer clear, as I hope they will respect my own to indulge.

    Live and let live, I say.

    Amazing post. The filth pool surrounding the L22 is intense!


  8. oh gosh! you are really brave to dunk them! haha. all i did so far was just wiped and wiped my dirty typers. the japanese white sponge helped to clean stubborn dirt sometimes. i cant wait for the the final reveal of that lime beauty. amazing!


  9. Thanks Ken. Just didn't want to ram my thoughts down someone's throat. Riding a motorcycle, I frequently have people feeling the need to tell me how dangerous it is. The often launch into a story about a nasty accident that they had seen or heard about, without even thinking. I they do it out of concern and care, so I don't worry about it. it is actually nice that they at least worry.

    As for the Lettera 22's pool… I'll concede that I retched a couple of times while trying to clean up the 'strings' of tar. If you look at the last photo, you can probably see streams of tar where they had held together in strings. I've dunked half a dozen typewriters now, and I hadn't even seen anything even close to this before.


  10. Might have to be a little bit longer. Some of the smear has gotten into some difficult to reach corners, and I'm going to have to go again.

    It's a tough little machine, but by golly… I've never seen so much stuff so contained.


  11. I want to try dunking and I bet I have a couple that are half camel or marlboro. I wo t do mine in the tub tho – that is some sick shit!
    As for smoking, smokers invented typewriters.
    I think it's part of the idea that smoking goes with writing that goes with typewriters that goes with writers that goes with coffee. Back then of course.
    At times I miss a long hard drag off a cancerstick
    As much as I miss a double shot of a real dry whisky
    As much as I miss and reminisce the stupid things our younger invincible selves would only laugh in the faces of, heartily.


  12. Give it a try on a cheap and nasty machine first, so you can practice how you dry it, sort out water in the carriage, and know what you need to do it.

    Ahhh yes. The days when were all WERE so invincible!


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