It's fitting Generation X is so called given the shocking state of its handwriting.
As if illiterate, black-hatted prospectors making our mark with a bloody cross on an ill-gotten gold claim, my cohort can be easily identified by the ugly, infantilised scrawl with which we abuse all those - as Mike and the Mechanics called them - "crumpled bits of paper filled with imperfect thoughts" lying around the home office.
Our lot saw off cursive the same way we ended the saxophone's glorious reign in rock; arrogantly, so sure we'd never need it again, so certain we wouldn't miss it.
Well, now Clarence Clemons and Guru Josh are both dead, James Valentine is too busy with his radio show and that guy from INXS has disappeared somewhere down the beach.
As Mike and the Mechanics (not nearly enough reed instruments, by the way, Michael) also said "Every generation blames the one before", a motto our age group has adopted with gusto, so it feels somewhat treacherous to admit we only have ourselves to blame for the dysgraphic pandemic which so grips a collective raised, disturbingly enough, by Mr Squiggle.
We were lazy.
When biros became plentiful and disposable, when computers began sprouting in homes (and much later in classrooms), when answering machines obviated the need for a natty little notepad by the phone, when priorities changed, when it just became easier to take the easy route, we became the first generation to regress on the page.
It's downright shameful to compare our poor excuse for penmanship to that of our parents', who, even when hobbled by arthritic liver-spotted talons, can still compose the kind of copperplate birthday card for the grandkids for which their own adult children would have to scour Etsy before they happened upon anything comparable and even then it would be dripping with that whole flowery Shaker-Quaker folk art vibe which has no place in Barnaby's austere, masculine land of weatherboard and iron.
In primary school, we began diligently enough; hovering nuns with rulers ready to rap knuckles when our feathery consonants - as if untethered mountaineers on the north face of Everest - became perilously unanchored from sturdy vowels.
When our pudgy fingers bunched liked lemmings at the precipice of a pencil, we were hived off into remedial groups and ordered to use a prismatic corrective device which looked more suited to the cover of a Pink Floyd album than the recalcitrant hand of a thoroughly demeaned eight-year-old.
We laid templates under translucent pages and rote and rote and rote until we could write no more, leaving stacks of dog-eared exercise books on the desks of our poor teachers, who were somehow able to find the time overnight to critique every looping line, the dawn of a new day revealing a trail of red ink showing us precisely where we'd strayed.
But then something changed.
In what seemed the space of a few of years, all that elegant running writing drilled into us as children was quickly forsaken for its dumb cousin "printing" and by the time, as young adults, we were grappling with essays on the French Revolution and Coleridge, anachronistic script was a quaint memory and sometimes a reflex action that produced a mongrel breed of impenetrable prose that lost you marks because, at big school, no one could be bothered deciphering your hieroglyphics, no matter how undoubtedly enriched they'd be if they just went to that extra effort.
It's further treachery to admit it's been your generation that has ruined things for the next but it was Gen X ditching decent handwriting in the first place that meant Millennials never even had to consider it.
Gen Y cops all that grief about how texting (they do text too much, it's weird) removes the important link between hand and brain, let alone the carnage a thumb-led assault on the English language has wrought on vocabularies and attention spans, but it was us venal sods who dropped the ballpoint in the first place.
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Knowing there is now a fair proportion of the population incapable of coherent chirography, it seemed authorities were being a little generous this week when they pleaded for those brave enough to venture out into the community to not write "fake names" on contact-tracing forms when they visited public venues.
Certainly, there will always be those who choose to write "Mickey Mouse" and "Donald Duck" on any official-looking document (proving the unrivalled wit and creativity of a certain substratum, not to mention the creepily enduring influence of a long-dead animator) but one has to wonder whether much of the problem isn't deliberate evasion but rather dodgy handwriting?
As ACT chief health officer Kerryn Coleman said, one of the problems of locking down the Crossroads Hotel outbreak in NSW had been "illegible name and numbers, so therefore people were not able to be contacted".
I love the right to privacy but also love good guest house "comments book" or a club sign-in sheet, because they offer immediate insight into those who've gone before you. Sometimes there's the tribal thrill of happening upon the same surname, the opportunity to flee the area because an enemy/family member is in the vicinity, or even the slim chance of clocking a celebrity autograph (Wilbur Wilde - the saxophonist - was once somewhere in the same leagues club as I. True story).
It's been in the same spirit of voyeurism I've inspected the contact-tracing registers attached to the precious few establishments we've visited over the past few weeks and although I haven't seen any Disney characters, I have witnessed columns and columns of woeful handwriting.
The clipboards appeared as though they'd been left on a pre-school finger-painting easel as opposed to the entrance of a pub or fish and chippery and rather than serving as a vital weapon in the fight against a plague or even a snapshot of society, they just seemed a sad indictment on the state of written communication in the 21st century.
For the sake of public health and safety, for the sake of posterity, for the sake of simple aesthetics, I refused to be a part of this rabble, so when it came time for me to put pen to paper, I awoke my dormant skills and made sure history and contact-tracers would look kindly on my methodical and assuredly legible contribution.
My wife's name and phone number have never looked so lovely.
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