This is a post written in English that is going to be followed by a post translating it into Hebrew. I’m making points in this lengthy, yet, I promise, interesting post that I wish both my Hebrew-reading friends to enjoy easily and any English readership I might attract here.
It’s been quite a nasty day for me yesterday. I don’t usually write blog posts like diary entries, even though I do write personal posts, but something that I did yesterday caused me to do a lot of thinking. Really disconcerting, nasty, shocking, sickening things usually do.
I should probably add it to my “about me page”, but for now, I’ll put it here that my “job classification”, if you could call it that, is a “freelancer English/Hebrew/Sign Language interpreter and transcriber”. It’s a very high-paying job for an untrained student and, more importantly, since I freelance, I can supply my services when I want, to whom I want and to what extent I want. So when I’ll be busy with exams, I’ll have the legal privilege to simply work less. It also means that I negotiate my payment before every job and I get a lot of experience with a huge variety of subjects.
I’ve been doing this for about 6 years now, ever since I was 17 and my dad needed me to come and not only translate for him, which was something I got used doing and never actually expected payment for it – but he also asked me to transcribe for him too because his regular transcriber was sick. Transcribing to deaf students is simply to sit next to them in class and try and type whatever the professor says. My dad was having a course in auto mechanics and he had government funding for either a typist/transcriber or a sign language interpreter. In my case, since I’ve been living behind a keyboard ever since I was 5 (when I got my first 286 computer) and by now have achieved sonic typing speed, and because I’ve been interpreting for mom and dad all my life -Dad got both.
So, needless to say, Dad was extremely pleased. Whenever the lecturer said things that he had to memorize or explained really complicated ideas, I wrote them down, word-for-word. Most people, fortunately, don’t talk faster than 80 words a minute, which is about how fast I type in both Hebrew and English. I even managed to write down some comments and questions from the other students and the answers the professor gave. I really gave dad the feeling that he was really IN the class, aware of everything that’s happening. Even today, the knowledge of this makes me cry.
When dad simply wanted to understand a concept, or, after I wrote down what the professor said, to ask a question, I removed my fingers from the laptop social security gave me and I started interpreting to dad in sign language and voicing my dad’s questions to the professor.
In that respect, I think I became and might probably still be the ONLY transcriber who is ALSO a sign-language interpreter. After my dad finished his course (he got like 98 or something! woohoo dad!), I was just about to graduate and I had thoughts of actually getting a job so that I could save up some money. I had about 2 months in which I worked in telemarketing, delivered newspapers and there was one more thing I don’t even remember… Until one day, my dad told me about a deaf student he knows who majors in special education. He said that he thought I was really good at transcribing and being able to sign is a huge bonus for any deaf student. I reluctantly agreed to accompany this girl for one semester and it was just amazing. First of all, I was making about triple minimum wage. That is, I made twice as much money as any of my friends in half the time. All the while, having complete access to academic courses and almost the entire week off. I worked 3 days a week, about 10 hours in total, and they paid me so friggin’ much, I simply couldn’t get why. This “business” took off as more students heard of my “special skills”. By the time I joined the army and had to stop working, of course, I had 2 more long-term jobs: one was with a girl who studied dental hygiene and another who learnt marriage-counselling. Needless to say, I was exposed to information I probably would never have been exposed to.
During the army, I did a lot of jobs “in the black market”, because Israeli soldiers aren’t allowed to have jobs without a special permit, which I wouldn’t be able to get because my family wasn’t poor. So I had the opportunity to go to court with deaf plaintiffs, transcribe official hard-of-hearing conferences and even professional lectures by foreign lecturers in technical subjects such as audiology. I gained so much information that I have no current use for that it’s kinda funny. Of course, a soldier doing this “on his free time” – I got paid in cash and no one was any wiser. I helped a lot of people with my services, so I think anyone with an IRS-oriented morality should just leave me alone, at that.
Anyway, after I discharged from the army, I got an official “card” and”opened up a business”, and I’m only writing that in quotes because it feels ridiculous to write it without them, and, well, got myself a name, a reputation. I started working with private companies, those who REALLY pay big bucks for broke, young, discharged soldiers. And here I am now. Now I mostly do the most difficult type of transcribing, but I do it from home and on my own terms, which is great because it means I can work whenever I want. The most difficult part of transcribing I just mentioned is formal government and judicial material: conferences/meetings/law suits/commities, etc. They’re all of a very similar vein: all exquisitely recorded, all requiring a lot of experience as a transcriber.
Now that I’ve finished droning on how I got into transcribing and interpreting (something, admittedly, that I did less and less when I got into transcribing for private companies for a lot more than what the government pays interpreters), I’ll get to the point of what happened to me yesterday and how hard it shook me.
I got a new “supplier”, or “well”, as I call them, for transcription jobs. A solid, good, credible company with lots of work that was recruiting new transcribers and translators in English and Hebrew. The first job they gave me was yesterday, in which I completed transcribing two hours of audio. Now, there’s a legal agreement that prevents me from saying exactly what happened in that piece of audio, mainly because it was of a closed-doors serious crime law-suit and even if I could, I don’t think I’d have the balls to really tell what happened, just that listening and writing down with my own fingers the course of those two hours was such a horrible, nasty, sickening, bowel-churning experience that it simply screwed up my mood for the rest of the day. I was supposed to go this geek party thing afterwards and simply didn’t. I stayed up alone, drank too much and tried really, really hard not to think about human evil.
But the actual serious crime itself wasn’t the only thing that made me so battered.
Well, yeah, first of all, there was the part that I literally stopped working in some cases where something simply unbelievable was said by someone (things were said that shocked me so much that I simply froze for a few minutes and literally had a physiological response to it, I could actually throw up.), but in the aftermath, and after, somehow, getting used to hearing really horrible descriptions from the witness stand, something else REALLY bothered me. Notwithstanding the fact that horrible, nasty, incomprehensible evil is alive and kicking on this planet, there was also the fact that when people investigate witnesses, be they the victims, defendants, or anyone else, lawyers, being what they are, are capable of twisting words and using verbal gymnastics in a way that would make almost anyone believe almost anything. I found this extremely troubling because on the one hand, I heard a victim depicting what has happened to him/her and then, when cross-examined, the lawyer actually did a REALLY good job at discrediting the witness.
I know it’s his job, but it’s as if the guy had absolutely no sympathy, he was doing his job like there’s nothing else in the world but defending his client. And when I listened to what he said, I was shocked to realize that at some points, I almost believed him. I believed him when he discredited the witness. And then I shook my head and realized that serious criminals get to walk away so many times simply because of people like that lawyer.
Some serious crimes have very little evidence to support them, and in that case, the only thing left to investigate is the witnesses. That said, people who are confused, scared, have been suffering from many years by the same person and can’t recollect and reproduce events in the far past – they all give screwed up descriptions of what happened to them. Possibly, to the extent where they say one thing at the police and another in court, simply because they’re too emotionally wound up to be completely consistent. This is also, sadly, enough to discredit almost ANYONE because in cases of serious crimes that are well-hidden, there’s usually discrepancy even between what the victim says and what other people who confided in the victim say. It’s so… dirty, the whole business.
I finished working yesterday feeling, more than any sympathy that I felt, more than any pride I felt in taking a small part in something this important, I felt sick. I felt sick with the fact that humans can twist words any way they like and with that allow such evil not only to exist, but also to escape judgment. I wouldn’t assume to be both judge and jury, but hearing what cross-examination is like in cases like this, I can be almost certain that sometimes, lawyers help the bad guys walk away and then the bad guys continue doing bad things. It is a failure that humanity suffers from that I find so heart-breaking and mind shattering,
I do not know how to reconcile this with myself, and I know that there’s very little that I can do.
It is quite amazing what evil lurks in the hearts of men. In some, insanity or an unrestrained compulsion drives people to destroy other souls or even to take them. But in other cases, it is greed or indifference that allows for such visceral evil to exist. I can’t make which evil is worse.