This is the story of the last couple of days. You can look at it as a long list of grievances, or as a humorous series of mishaps, some of them happen quite frequently and are part of the job. I prefer to look at it from the latter perspective. Yet…
- Being hired for a highly technical conference 4-5 days in advance is quite common, especially if you are asked if you are comfortable with IT. Yes, you are; if you are not, then you might be living in another century
- Getting confirmation mid-afternoon the day before the conference is already a little nerve-racking (this was through an agency, things move differently when you are working for your client, or when a fellow interpreter is in charge).
- Finding that even at that late hour no documents have been made available by the end client to prepare the meeting is disappointing, to say the least.
- In that context, finding out via Google that the conference was announced several weeks ago, and that the program and several links are actually to be found on the Web is annoying.
- Searching the Web for something -ANYTHING!- related to that conference and that extremely important topic is probably a waste of time, yet provides some insight.
- Finally getting some documents (not even half of them, not even said program, a minimum) towards the end of the day means a studious evening. That’s fine with me, I’m not an avid TV viewer and I make time to go to the movies at other times
And that was only ‘the day before.’
On the actual day of the conference:
- Finding that the sound coming to your headsets is so weak that the Japanese speaker standing about 1 yard from the microphone cannot be heard properly, even with my volume button turned way UP. Any simultaneous interpreter will tell you that when your own voice covers the speaker’s voice in your brain, you’re in trouble.
- Finding that another speaker, whose Powerpoint presentation took ages to prepare, hands over to a colleague who will present an entirely different story, is OK. You’ve had that before. You are feeling philosophical, it’s going to be one of those days…
- Finding that the technician (a lot has to be said for the wonderful help we get from technicians) has provided the speaker with a hand microphone so she can move around, and she forgets its main purpose and starts waving it around and uses it as a pointer to the screen, reproducing problem #1, is hilarious (in theory, not in practice).
- Hearing that the 1.5 hour set aside for lunch on the program is reduced to one hour, with no possibility of having a decent lunch (that includes a salad or a sandwich, we are not talking about 5-course meals here) and having to elbow your way to the buffet table to sample a couple of one-square-inch mini-sandwiches is… what’s the word for it? Begging a plate from the buffet staff to take some of those post-stamp sandwiches outside in order to get a breath of fresh air away from the general noise and receiving a huge tray, but nothing to put on it is… I give up. This blog is abusive-language-free.
- Being told off by the agency for being difficult about the meal and the document situation is not nice.
- Being written off as a newbie because clients *never* provide documents willingly and on time, is stupid.
Well. My clients provide documents ahead of time. Not that I have to whip them to get that. If they can’t, they tell me why and they apologize. If I’m organizing a team, I keep my colleagues informed of the real situation and we take it from there. The clients I know may not welcome the extra work, but they never consider interpreters as non-entities, they know the part we play in the success of their event, even if it’s a nominal part. Yes, it takes time to have that conversation, and yes, they have other things on their minds, but it’s the organizers’ job to keep the conversation going, not to wake up at the last minute and then lay the blame on the client.
Call it the straw that broke the camel’s back. Even after 30 years, I still consider that contributing to the success of the client’s event is the most important part of my job. I have no patience and indeed no interest for this kind of argument.