Today in My History
Books Read in 2020
...AND THEN I TYPED...
25 February 2020
I'll tell ya, I don't know what is going on in my brain these days.
Last night was one of those up-and-down nights, where I was exhausted before 9:30 and went to sleep, but was then awake again in an hour and throughout the night I changed "beds" at least four or five times, sleeping for an hour or two before waking up again.
The one consistent thing throughout the night was that my brain was centered on F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Now I don't believe I have ever read anything by Fitzgerald so why I was so obsessed with remembering his name throughout the night, I have no clue. I did type a dissertation once from a woman who was studying wife Zelda Fitzgerald and I remember a lot about the tumultuous relationship between the two, how he apparently stole her work and published it as his own. But why would that be so much on my mind in the middle of a restless night? I read this morning that she was considered by her husband as "the first American flapper."
When you work for a typing service, which I did for many years, you learn a lot of really oddball things, and you have some surprising experiences.
Whoda thunk that I would end up as a medical transcriptionist when I was handed a box of thirty tapes of a medical conference by a Japanese veterinarian. He gave me the tapes and a medical dictionary and told me to "do the best you can." Under the best of circumstances, typing transcripts of a meeting is one of the most difficult things to do, but this was not only many voices I could not differentiate among, but highly technical material I had never heard before. I shudder to think now what the final product must have looked like to whoever expected it at the end of the project. I had to check the dictionary for just about every technical word, words that became so familiar to me later when I started doing medical transcription on a regular basis.
To this day I won't willingly have a manicure or pedicure because of several papers I typed about the horror stories that have come out of services, horror stories backed up by a podiatrist when I was sent to have my feet checked, who told me about the dangers of infection and warned me that if I ever wanted to get my nails done to be sure to ONLY go to a medical school, where all the proper hygiene practices were observed.
I spent several weeks typing about the women involved in the Civil Rights movement, women like Fannie Lou Hamer, one of the organizers of SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee).
Hamer was the victim of forced sterilization in 1961, a procedure common as a way to reduce the African American population. She had gone in for one problem and while under anesthesia, was sterilized.
She worked to give African Americans the right to vote. In June 1963, after successfully registering to vote, Hamer and several other black women were arrested for sitting in a “whites-only” bus station restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina. At the jailhouse, she and several of the women were brutally beaten, leaving Hamer with lifelong injuries from a blood clot in her eye, kidney damage, and leg damage. We forget the price people pay for the right to vote...and hope they use that hard-won right wisely this year!
Every year we had "Yanomami season" at The Secretariat. I don't know what classes at the university studied the Yanomami, but we typists certainly had a good education in their culture. The Yanomami are a group of approximately 35,000 indigenous people who live in several villages in the Amazon rain forest. They are a somewhat violent people and according to Wikipedia, the most common cause of death among them is warfare. Their history and society information is fascinating.
Some of the experiences were not so pleasant. I don't remember the topic of the dissertation I typed for a guy who was so exacting and demanding that after I had typed 100 or so pages, he decided he didn't like the way the letter "d" looked in the font I was using and wanted me to go back and remove every d and replace it with another font. That's when I told him he could have his dissertation at no charge because I would not deal with him any more. He eventually relented and accepted the "d" but the changes he made while I worked with him were many and we were at each other's throats most of the time.
We also went through AMCAS season.. The AMCAS is the American Medical College Application and there was a very rigorous form that had to be filled out for students applying to medical school. The form included a one page resume of everything pertinent the student had done. You could not exceed the margins of the box into which the information had to be typed and everyone wanted to get as much information in it as possible. I remember the numerous times I had to print one application (thank goodness we had memory typewriters by then) for a guy whose statement started at the top left of the page and the last word was at the bottom right. That was an amazing piece of juggling on our part (his and mine) to get it all in and to get it to fit on the form.
We also had our characters, like the guy who was a former high school teacher who had a mental breakdown and was not in his right mind. He talked to imaginary people all the time and on some level knew he was crazy because he would apologize when one of his invisible friends appeared and then go outside of the office for a heated discussion. I think this was the guy who was obsessed with magician David Copperfield because of the things he made disappear and wet out to prove he was from another planet. The guy eventually went on to self-publish a book and I bought it to send to my friend Melody, who also dealt with him.
It was an interesting experience working for a typing service. We were responsible for getting several university jocks through school by helping them with their papers. In this day of computers and the internet I suspect that typing services have gone out of business. I know the two I worked for in town have. But those were interesting days to be sure.
And I will probably be thinking about F. Scott Fitzgerald all day today.
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