Sunday, 22 June 2014

Freelance writing during the Zombie Apocalypse

After a year-long hiatus from work, the result of my sacking from a Paris publishing house, it's good to be back in the saddle again.
I need the money, but I also love my work which involves talking to smart people.
It's far better than the alternative, sitting in the Ekornes lounger babysitting a geriatric pug and playing Candy Crush Saga all day.
But working, for me at least, does have its challenges.
With three dogs in the house, I never know what calamity will occur. Maybe Finnigan will lose his Kong. Perhaps Sophie will snatch the calamine lotion from the side table and dump it all over herself. Maybe Gordie will shit himself.
One thing is clear: if something goes awry it will happen when I'm interviewing an important person on the telephone.
Take last week. I had lined up four interviews with very busy people. Usually, I try to do these interviews in the morning when Scott's here, before he toddles off to the dealership, but rarely are CEOs available to talk in the morning. They seem to prefer the after-lunch hour to kick back and ruminate over the issues of the day, while their gastric juices flow.
My first interview for a series I was working on was at 2 p.m., usually our naptime, but hey, you take them when you can get them.
Interviewing people involves locking Finnigan in the hallway and putting Gordie, the Jurassic pug on the floor giving him ample room to gyrate on his dead legs. Sophie, the young pug, is a crap shoot. I can't lock her in any of the bedrooms because she'll destroy either the carpet or the sheets or my shoes if I'm foolish enough to leave them on the floor. So, generally, I let her run free.
Truth be told, I haven't actually worked since she was adopted from the sketchy cons over in Gatineau a year ago, so it's been trial and error figuring out how to work with a pug puppy scratching, howling, barking, puking and generally attempting to ruin the vacuum cleaner hose.
The first interview was the test, and she performed badly.
I usually put my interview subjects on speaker phone and tape the encounter. I used to just take notes but then I also used to make up quotes because I couldn't read my handwriting. That was fine for news reporting, channeling Zotique Laframboise ("I never saw nuting like dat before, me") but it doesn't wash in the wonderful world of writing on technical subjects. The language must be precise, and all bases need to be covered, so I tape them.
My subject for the first interview was the person who would authorize my payment, so I tried to put my best person forward, not counting on Sophie to ruin it all.
When the time for the interview came, I barricaded myself in Scott's office with his captain's chair strategically positioned to hopefully, keep the pug from the door.
The encounter began well enough. Pleasantries, a remembrance of me and my work from my past job. Yadda.
But soon things began to deteriorate.
Suddenly, there was loud scratching at the door, so loud I couldn't hear the answers to my questions.
I paced and paced, sweat pouring down my brow, hoping my subject couldn't hear what sounded like the Zombie Apocalypse with walkers trying to break down the door to eat my brains.
Finally, I gave up, and opened the door hoping Sophie would come in and sit at my feet.
Such naivete.
The door opened, she rushed in and unplugged the phone.
I called back the subject, explained that I worked at home and I had a young dog.
He didn't care. Me, I almost had a stroke, as evidenced by the tape which continued to run as I hit redial. "Sophie, you piece of -----------," and much worse.
The interview ended, and I began the task of transcribing. I work in the hearing business and I now have a unique understanding of what working "in noise" means. It took me an extra hour to transcribe the interview trying to hear the voice of my subject over the scratching and barking.
Lord, kill me now.
Writing is challenging in this household now that Gordie has entered his golden years. He is blind and incontinent, but otherwise healthy. Which means he is bored all the time. He demands my attention 24/7 otherwise he howls and cries. He's developed this chirping sound which is really annoying like fingernails on the blackboard of my psyche.
My strategy in working around Gordie has been to get up at 5:30 a.m. and leave him in bed with Scott. This works well for short-term projects, but falls apart in the long term.
It was clear I had to figure out a way to work with Gordie in situ.
I tried everything: treats, anxiety medication, soothing dolphin music.
I considered euthanasia. Kidding, but I swear if the Zombie Apocalypse was real, Gordie would be left out, sleeping on the porch, no questions asked.
What finally worked was putting Gordie in a chair beside my computer and me putting one hand on his head.
I now can clearly describe a condition involving one dead hand.
This worked, but it was slow going.
Eventually, I think he got the idea, or maybe he just liked the sound of tap, tap.
Anyway, eventually, the work got done and sent in.
Next week, will be another challenge. The interview was done last week, so I only have to transcribe an hour and a half of CEO rumination and write 1,500 words.
Piece of cake.
I've already got the anti-anxiety medicine handy.
The bottle of Tequila is there waiting for the happy hour when I finally conclude my task.
I'm thinking of adding multitasking, geriatric caregiving and successful fighting of Zombies and evil pugs to the skills section of my resume.

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