I do have to say that this jive part-time job I’ve got has its moments. I’m learning about computer languages and equipment, about the latest happenings in the Middle East. (And I’m learning that when an impassioned Arab says an Arabic name, it goes by faster than I can get an ear on it, especially when there’s a squeaky door behind them that’s opening and closing about every ten seconds.) I’ve done interviews with several actors on currently running TV shows. I did an interview with a best-selling author about their latest book. I did one the other day that was an interview with a Buddhist monk (and I not only found the correct spelling of the tiny little village way up in the Himalayas where his temple is, but the name of the temple, the name of the guy who founded it in 1350-something, and the monk’s name, because I am the Google Queen). I’ve done ones where bubbe is telling the great grandkids about being in Auschwitz and where somebody talks about great aunt somebody’s zeyde escaping the pograms of eastern Europe and coming to America with nothing. Just amazing.
Actually, I’m taking a breather right now, because I’m about a third of the way into a rather grueling hours-long police interrogation of the friend of a murder suspect (I’ve never done one of these before and I thought I’d give it a shot.) — You’d think something like that would be in the news somewhere, right? With the friend’s street address, I found the town. With the first name of the suspect, the town and the last name of one detective, I was finally able to track down the law enforcement press release about the crime, got the friend’s full name, the suspects full name, the town where the murder took place, and with the last name of one detective and the county name, I found both detectives’ full names. It’s an old case that happened years ago, but even so, let me tell you, Castle it ain’t. It’s gotten really, really intense in places. I think I’m not going to do any more police interrogation tapes. That’s not a place I want to go any more.
We do get to preview the jobs, to make sure we don’t bite off more than we can chew — too many people talking (some people are better at keeping up with who’s who than others), bad accents that you can’t understand, a lot of background noise, lousy sound quality, that kind of thing — but then, the harder the recording, the better it pays. But after 26 years of listening to doctors of every stripe and nationality dictating not just in the middle of a crowded nurse’s station with people talking and doors opening and closing, or in the ER with babies screaming in the background, or in the hallway outside the lithotriptsy suite (with the lithotripter going bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang once a second throughout the entire recording!), or they’ve set the receiver of the dictating phone down on a bare desk so they can shuffle through paperwork and the phone picks up every knock and thump and ambient noise resonating through the deskstop, but from places you wouldn’t believe (in a car on a cell phone where it fades in and out between towers, at their kid’s swim meet surrounded by half the school cheering and hollering, in the men’s room — and you know that’s where they are because …) … I can do any of it, no problem. But I pick ones where there’s only a couple of people talking, (because I’m used to just one person talking the whole time), and where the sound quality is at least fair. And I try to pick the ones with subject matter I find interesting. It doesn’t bother me that the author or the actors are in the middle of a crowd of yacking people at a convention somewhere. I can usually zero in on them, unless the crowd noise becomes so loud it literally drowns them out.
But what’s really challenging is that we come into these jobs cold, with little or no information about them other than what kind of transcript we’re to provide — edited transcript with or without time stamps, or verbatim transcript with or without time stamps– and we’re expected to do the research and be as accurate in terms of spelling as we can under the circumstances. Sometimes we luck out and we are given the correct spelling of a name or some other important term but if it’s Joe Blow from somewhere out in the boondocks talking about how he found Jesus and was saved, Google won’t be any help, except maybe for a church or town name or something like that. Of course, if it’s about a TV show, it’ll be in IMDb (Internet Movie Database) which will have not only all the actors’s and characters’ names, but the names of the writers, producers, directors and crew. TV shows almost always have at least one Wikipedia article about them, too. The author’s book was being made into a miniseries, so it was also in the IMDb, as well as the book and the author both having articles in Wikipedia. Those kinds of things are easy-peasy to find, but things like computer programming terms can be more challenging. With Google, though, you don’t have to get the spelling exactly, just close enough that Google can tell what you want. That’s why the Middle Eastern stuff was such a bear. I couldn’t even hear the names well enough to get a “sounds like” spelling, that and I’m not that familiar with important people and current events in the Middle East, because I don’t watch the news.
This recording I’m doing now is not only difficult because of its intense subject matter, but because the recorder was set off to the side of the people being recorded, and the sound is pretty much all in one ear. I’m using ear buds, though so it’s not a problem to switch them out so I can put the one with the clearest sound in my “telephone ear.” Well, I guess I’d better get back to it.