Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Back to the work

No, the holidays aren't over. New Year looms - a holiday I take with some seriousnessl. A time to assess and think ahead. But otherwise days are taking on a normalcy perhaps a little sooner than expected. I've been back at work most of two weeks now. That means, in a practical sense, several hours a day not doing what I would be doing here at home -- not quilting, now writing, not reading, not playing the piano and not doing the bothersome chores of life like laundry and dishes. Also it means having a brain full of other people's voices -- for those who don't know, I transcribe audio or audio/video tapes -- of an extremely wide variety. For these several days it has mainly been financial. Men making mega-bucks from the funds they manage talking about how much money they're making for their companies and clients [and not mentioning themselves, although the year end bonuses must be the sugarplums that dance through their dreams]. This is a world I know well ... but only by the voices of obviously very smart men who apparently love thinking about money day in and day out.

Doing this kind of work for a good many years has given me an unusual perspective. Yesterday's fund manager was a brilliant man who spoke in wonderful fluid sentences. I wondered if he has a wife and children to whom he can speak in a simple human way. I hope so, but I wonder. His financial world seems totally engrossing to him. Today the spectrum shifted. A Hispanic man who has been diabetic half his life [he's in his early 60s] a retired blue collar working now dabbling in real estate to earn a needed extra bit of income, spoke of his fear, trauma and almost pathological hatred of giving himself insulin injections, the vehemence of his feeling was as eloquent as the analysis of the fund manager -- except I felt this man probably knows how to talk to his wife and his kids.

These people are examples of the thousands I've lived with a few hours of my working life. Their voices become part of my experience for a few hours. I laugh with them, follow their mental patterns, know very little, but pick up some essence of their lives. I'm a ghost, maybe a vampire imbibing some of their essence. And soon forgetting all but the variety of humanity whose concerns I have known. What I know of them is less, but more real, than what I know of the many fictional characters I've met in books all my life.

I can pick up the quilting metaphor easily, of course. The voices [and in the cases of the video interviews, faces] are the great variety of fabrics that have made up the patchwork quilt of my job. They have blended. My impression of the world -- from Presidents and multimillionaires, to wo/man-on-the-street even to criminals plus a lot of celebrities -- so that I see, often in a very superficial way, the variety and similarity of people. These people I've eavesdropped on blend nicely with the people I've voyeuristically watched as a tourist in many, many places in the world. Perhaps this is why I like what I called a couple of days ago an "ad lib" method of quilting. At my job I never know when I put on headphones what voices I'm going to hear -- I like surprises, I like variety ... I like letting the variety take shape around me. It's a fascinating world, I almost never get bored. I was enjoying being at home and doing my own things, letting my body heal itself. But now that I'm back at work, it's okay to sit typing several hours, getting stiff. Then I walk a few blocks to the subway and a few blocks home and the hips work okay. Life is full of variety .. yes, it's a wonderful, haphazard quilt of people, experiences, new knowledge, the whole kit and caboodle.

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