It’s official: I’m no longer unemployed.

This was the result of about a week of inquiring, calling, and probing a cashier at our local grocery store with questions relating to the store’s current employment status. Finally, after all of that and finishing with my interview today, I can say that I have job.

The cashier in question is one that loves Anthony to pieces and always talks to him whenever she helps us. One day after she rang us up, I asked if she knew if they were hiring. She said that many, many people had recently left and that there should be some vacancies. I slipped her my business card and told her to give me call when she found out.

I never got that call but, after dealing with this craptacular day last week, I went straight to said grocery store and asked the Manager On Duty if there were any positions available. She told me to call the manager the next day and talk to them, which I did. My interview was scheduled for today at 1:00 pm.

I was pretty much told I had the job before I even had a seat. The manager also said that I was overqualified for the job but after telling them I needed a change, they didn’t seem as intimidated by my professional experience. I filled out a few forms, took the drug test right there, and now I await the results. Provided I pass (and I’m sure I will), training will begin the following Saturday.

And that’s that. As for my last blog post in which I was obviously ticked off, I feel it was definitely justified and my feelings pretty much remain the same toward everything I mention in that post. In fact, I might have a little more spite for the EDD after reading this story which claims that 90% of calls go unanswered. I can tell you that after trying to get a hold of them for a simple question, it sure seems like they don’t answer. They are practically impossible to reach.

Oh, and Congress? I may be starting a new job soon but you still suck more than I can put into words for ruining peoples’ lives by not extending unemployment benefits.

It may be part-time and minimum wage but considering the time it took to find something and ultimately get the job, Ann was more excited than she was when I got a job paying 3x more. It’ll be tough but I’d rather survive on a little than worry about when Congress makes up its mind about EDD extensions – and get nothing in the meantime.

Turning A Corner

In my last post, I created a nifty little collage of images that was based on the currently popular “What People Think I Do” meme.

Then I really got to thinking about what exactly it is I do for a living and realized how much I no longer want to be a proofreader.

That’s not to say that I never have. When I first got my start I thoroughly enjoyed doing it because up to that point, I was just another retail slave. Going from printing photos in a photo lab to working in an office proofreading and  writing articles for magazines that were published across the country was a quantum leap in terms of personal enjoyment, compensation, and my overall career.

And the writing I do here on the blog is fine and well because, let’s face it, I’m the boss and everything is up to me (except those things which I cannot control). Whatever I want to say and however I want to format it – the choice is always mine. It’s enjoyable and is my outlet at the end of a day, a day that is filled with 8 hours reading a variety of labels and Instructions for Use in multiple languages, none of which I can tear apart and reconstruct the way I wish I could.

I have been proofreading since 2003 and I believe that it has taken its toll. Additionally, it’s not something I can see myself doing in 10 or even 5 years from now. Heck, try 1 year.

To top it all off, my eyes sometimes feel like they are going to fall out of my head by the end of the day.

Taking all things into consideration, it’s safe to say that I think I’ve reached the end of my line as a proofreader.

The lack of personal enjoyment aside, the market for experienced proofreaders is ridiculous. I can’t tell you how many recruiters have contacted me regarding open (contracted) proofreader positions they had available. The contact is made, I send my resume, and then I either hear nothing or get the “Thanks, but…” e-mail or call. It’s an employer’s market and I’m nowhere near the top rung on their ladder of qualified candidates.

What makes me less attractive, aside from the obvious physical traits, is that I’m 43 with no college degree which pretty much makes me look like a loser when they open up my resume. I simply lack the required education for the available proofreading jobs and it’s not like going back to school was going to help me one bit. In fact, I have scrapped that plan because at this point, I would be wasting my time and money by taking whichever course I was considering: Technical Writing or Effective Business Writing, I forget which. I don’t even think I had my choice narrowed down yet.

Yay verily, it’s safe to say that my days as a proofreader are most definitely numbered – by my choice. For the sake of my sanity I’ve decided that my next job will most likely not be in the same field. If anything, I may consider a return to retail management or go off and so something completely out of my element.

In short, the time is right to move on and try something different. Going for a real estate license? Selling cars? Driving the tractor that picks up golf balls at the local driving range?

Who knows. Anything is within the realm of possibility at the moment.

Back to School

As is the case every year, Ann asked me what I wanted for my birthday (which is today as most friends inside and outside of Facebook know). And as usual I had a blank stare and the equally vague reply of “Nothing.”

But after thinking about it, I decided that I’m not getting any younger and that spending the rest of my days as a proofreader is most definitely not what I want.

That’s why, instead of asking for something physical, I opted for a gift that might benefit me in the long run: a course at our local university.

The CSULB College of Continuing and Professional Education offers a reasonably large course listing that includes Certificate, Degree and Online programs. While the first two are definitely out of the question due to cost and time constraints, I’m all in for the online courses as they are 6 weeks and I can do them at home.

Of course, the question remains: what should I take?

As already mentioned, I’m burned out in my current “career” choice and would like to expand my horizons by taking something completely out of the ordinary or my comfort zone. This is what learning is about and while I could probably gain some useful insight from another writing course, the fact of the matter is that  I simply don’t want to take another one. Creative Writing, English 101, Screenwriting, Technical Writing…I’ve done them all before. While there is a Business Writing course available, I’m really wondering if that would be any advantage to me.

I’m continuing to look at the courses and have still yet to decide which I will take. Knowing how I am, the Spring session will be over by the time I choose.

Too bad they don’t offer one in Critical Thinking and Creative Problem Solving.

Just In Case

Anthony found this hat at the thrift shop today.

2011-04-29 20-05-03.494

The way things are going, I think I should hold onto it for myself.

Well, I can’t really complain. I still have a (not-so-close-to-home) job and the work seems to be increasing by the day.

But still…the hat might come in handy someday 🙂

A Day at the Office

What exactly goes through the mind of a proofreader? Let me entertain you with what I might experience on a daily basis.

I’m a bit of an anomaly at the office. I’ve noticed that people tend to stare or glance at me with regular frequency which I find kind of strange. I guess there are a few reasons for this:

  • I’m not Asian so I can’t be considered one of the chemists or brains around there
  • I’m not in a custodial outfit so I can’t possibly be the janitor
  • I don’t wear a labcoat so I’m not in the R&D Department

As far as anybody knows, I’m a visitor around there and by the time they really do figure me out, I’ll be out of there (read: contract will be up).

My desk. It’s nothing more than a long table with illumination that is shared between four people, three of which are proofreaders. It’s also equipped with a file cabinet and overhead storage compartment where I can safely store my ubiquitous backpack and have it ready should I ever need to use it as a flotation device.

I’ve also got the tools of the trade: red pen, blue/black pens, magnifying glass, desk lamp. And my iPod. I have no computer but there is a phone between me and that other proofreader that sits next to me. Neither of us answer it when it rings.

While I’ve proofread before, this job has a different set of rules than my last one. My previous employer stressed the importance of proofreading as well as accuracy but quantity was more of a factor. Here, however, we’re dealing with documentation for medical devices so the emphasis is on quality. After all, how else will that Croatian doctor learn how to jam that balloon probe into his patient’s sphincter?

We log the time we spend on each document we proof and in fact, I’ve been told that I need to slow down while proofing just to ensure that things are as accurate as they can be. That said, it’s not unusual to spend anywhere from 3-4 hours proofing certain documents that have instructions for use in several languages.

And that’s when the job gets challenging.

Some documents can have up to 24 languages that need to be proofed against what’s called the redline, or marked-up copy that represent the absolute final draft of the document. Each document I proof is accompanied by a stack of supporting documents, include said redlines, attachments, and previously changed proofs. It’s my job to make sure that what I’m proofing matches the most recent redline letter-for-letter, accent-for-accent, umlaut-for-umlaut.

As you might imagine, sitting at a desk and proofing these things for eight hours a day an get a bit tedious. And while English is obviously the easiest to proof, things get ugly once you start some of the other languages, like…

Swedish. I’ve proofed stuff in Swedish before and it’s an amusing language just because some of the stuff sounds funny in English. Want an example?

  • Beslutfattande: decision-making
  • Sex: six
  • Farten troten: minute when
  • Designmonster: design patterns
  • Snart: soon

The list goes on and on. Not only that, but sometimes it looks like they just crammed a bunch of words together for the hell of it. I often thought that “soaker hose” would translate into “sökerhös” in Swedish.

Bulgarian. Here’s when I have to step away from the document and gather my thoughts because goddamn, that’s one fucked-up language. Here’s an example of what’s going on in my head while proofing Bulgarian letter-by-painstaking-letter:

Ectocooler…kayak…moxie…pi…lasik…backwards N…uh, 3…weird shape…Space Invader…

So today I was in the middle of a huge job when the foreign letters that sat in front of me began to taunt me with their nonsensical jibberish. I think I even saw a Greek letter flip me the bird. This is a common occurrence while proofreading jobs of this size: despite their near-perfect formatting by the time you get them, reading these documents for hours turns them into a kind of mushy alphabet soup that can gently lull you to sleep if you’re not careful.

I had to snap out of it so I dragged myself over to the coffee table. The funny thing is that I don’t drink coffee but at this point I was jonesing for something that would keep me awake—and keep those punk-ass Turkish letters in line.

I poured a cup of the blackest, nastiest coffee available and took a sip. No, I still don’t like black coffee and still don’t know how others drink that shit. It needed flavor for this Starbucks Frappuccino of a guy.

So I started to randomly grab shit and pour it in my mug, taking a sip now and then for quality control purposes. By the time I was done ripping, dipping and plunking the virtual mother lode of chemical additives into my Jack Skellington coffee mug, I had crafted a concoction that not only morphed from used-motor-oil black to a shade reminiscent of an animated character’s skin tone, but one possibly toxic enough to make my intestines cry uncle. But fuck it, the experiment worked and each sip kept me awake. Yes, I’m a frou-frou Coffee Pussy.

Coffee in hand, I made my way back to my desk and continued to read the document. The coffee kept me awake but I wasn’t surprised to see that the letters still weren’t making much sense—and still looked like a jumbled mess.

That continued the rest of my day until I went home at 4:30. Total documents proofed today: two. That’s it.

And guess what? Tomorrow I will do it all again.

I just hope there’s some coffee ready…