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12:00 p.m. - September 29, 2003
On . . . nothing much
Occasionally I feel a twinge of dismay about the rate I earn as an interpreter, especially when I'm paid to sit around and do nothing at all but read and write. It's all supply and demand coupled with scarcity of qualified & (nationally) certified bodies, not to mention undergoing federal background checks so I gain the desirable position of literally being the only man for the job, at which time the financial rate skyrockets.

I operate through two agencies, though the San Francisco office is unaware I also contract with The Enemy. Between the two I juggle different rates, minimums, additional incentives, mileage fees. On some assignments I invoice a standard minimum & mileage, on others the line-item fees resemble hospital bills with line after line of jargon. There's the federal security surcharge, the basic two and a half minimum charge (which is higher still for federal, for legal, for educational, for medical, all depending on the complexity of the assignment), surcharges based on whether it's last-minute day, last-minute evening, last-minute weekend morning, last-minute weekend evening, holiday, or Peak Demand which is between 9 - 12 or - aha! slippery bean counters get irked at this one - 1 - 5 so there's no cheap savior route, and then of course evening rates go into effect at 5:00 p.m. and if you think day rates are high, you could laugh at the ludicrousness of it all unless you were the one paying me.

And so today I'm paid to be here just in case because doing so is cheaper than last-minute requests. This bores me and I draw parallels to tedious temp work except that my income is far higher than anything you can make while unsalaried. Of course there are drawbacks: No benefits, I have to pay self-employment taxes, and there are peak periods of busy-ness followed by barely an invoice ripple, though I'm fortunate enough (qualified enough? certified enough? the favored agency pet enough?) to avoid the downturns.

I used to like this job, of seeing behind-the-scenes stuff, interpreting board meetings and lawsuits, medical school and the U.S. Navy, the (former) INS, community stuff. I think I'm sated and this disturbs me, is yet another indication I'm never satisfied and where do I go from here? Don't laugh, but I'm thinking law school one of these days. When I took the LSAT in 1997 my score - like the GREs - meant law school was a strong possibility, and when I had to choose that route or the academic, linguistics and cognitive science had greater allure. But we know how that's turned out and so now I'm thinking of Plan B. Or C or something. Anything. I'm suffocating in this blandness that is my life.


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