Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Work Part Deux

My job - my real - actually makes money from it - job is transcriptionist. For those of you who don't know what a transcriptionist is, allow me to enlighten you. A large firm in New York hires transcriptionists, who don't actually work under the auspices of the firm, which would entitle them to things like health benefits and other silly things, but are private contractors and responsible for making their own tax, social security and other arrangements. This firm then notifies you of a job they may have for you. You log onto a special ftp folder on the company site and download the audio file you find there to your own pc.

Next you plug in your footpedal and your headphones (all hardware provided at your own expense since you're a private contractor and absolutely get ALL the perks, natch). You open a template provided by the company in New York in your MS. Word program, hit your foot pedal, listen really, REALLY hard, and type what you hear. All of this for the princely sum of 6c a word. This should show you two things: Firstly that the ideal place to do this job is somewhere where the cost of living is REALLY cheap (Washington doesn't fall into this category). Secondly you'd better be able to type REALLY fast and REALLY accurately so you don't have to spend too much time in the proofreading part of the job. Cause really, gentle reader, 6c a word gross, before tax and social security and health benefits is NOT A LOT!

But it's an odd little job, as it gives you a window into the lives of people other than yourself, through listening to the audio they've created. I've been a fly on the wall in ACS cases where parents who blatantly don't deserve their children back are fighting to regain custody of them. I type those with an inward snarl and root for the ACS prosecutors. I've listened to groups of top directors in fields like pharmaceuticals sitting around a table discussing better ways to fleece the public, or financial and banking professionals giving the inside scoop on how the public should be glad they even allow us to keep our money with them. I choke back my anger and try to avoid deliberately renaming the participants as 'dickhead' and 'dorkwad'.

I've also done plenty of Board of Education transcripts, where the schools are attempting to suspend students for behavior which makes me appreciate how good my own teenagers are. I type those with kind of a righteous fervor, and pray that the hearing officer makes the decision I would have come to and doesn't send the little miscreant back to the school to further torture its teacher and fellow students. I also subscribe to the Judge Judy school of thinking that the worst children quite often have the worst kind of enabling parents who will defend their child even in the light of the most outlandish behavior imaginable.

After doing a transcript for a firm of stockbrokers where one of the participants was describing taking phone calls about work while she was in LABOR WITH HER TWINS! I decided that some people are WAY too devoted to their jobs.

But I think my favorite transcript of all was a film maker who decided to make a celebration of her elderly parents' life by sitting them down for an interview on the eve of their fiftieth wedding anniversary. Listening to these two sweet old people talk about meeting each other, marrying, and raising their not insubstantial brood was incredibly touching. At the end of the interview, their daughter had them read the verses inside the card another one of the daughters had designed and made for them which would serve as the announcements for the festivities. It was a poem about old love vs. young love, and the old lady's voice was breaking as she was reading it aloud, and TRUST ME...it's not easy to transcribe audio when you can't see through your own tears. So YEAH, I'M SAPPY...SUE ME! That one transcript was like a bonus for all of the cut throat, wheeler dealer, NASTY people I get to transcribe a lot of. I would have done that one for free for the enjoyment it gave me, and I hope that the two of them had an absolutely SPLENDIFOROUS anniversary bash.

So now I'm off to type up some more car insurance claims. You know, there was a British comedian named Jasper Carrott (yes honestly) in the seventies who used to make a big part of his routine the true details of what people would put in their car insurance claims. Things like:

  • Coming home I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I haven't got.
  • I bumped into a lamp post which was obscured by human beings.
  • The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve a number of times before I hit him.
  • I knocked over a man. He admitted it was his fault as he'd been knocked down before.
  • I saw a sad-faced, slow-moving old gentleman as he bounced off the hood of my car.

I used to think those things were a clever comedian's comic invention. Now I know that people actually say these things and more besides. 6c a word? Yeah....but the entertainment is free!!


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