Thursday, September 18, 2003


Another odd job I held was as a glorified secretary and editor for Y Publications in Gainesville, Florida. Dr. X ran the business, which produced sample tests in book form for accountants and airplane pilots who wanted to get certain certifications. Why accountants and airplane pilots? Because Dr. X just happened to be both. My first duty at Y was to transcribe the seemingly endless tapes Dr. X made day and night--whether in his office or at home or on the road. He had a little mini tape recorder he took with him everywhere.

So, I would transcribe his thoughts, ideas, and letters every day. After I finished, I'd work on copy editing of the various manuals.

Dr. X was a curious creature, who liked to wear striped shirts and these thick, 1950s dark-framed glasses. He needed little sleep. He had no social graces--or, rather, could turn them on when needed, but for the most part was sharply direct, sometimes to the point of rudeness. I can remember more than one time that I would come into the office and he would be at his desk in his boxers, having spent the night in the building so as to work on some new idea.

Ideas were always sparking off of Dr. X. One time, I remember, I was merrily transcribing away when I heard him say, "Jeff, I want to see about promoting the use of small aircraft. Some kind of campaign. Get someone like Michael Jackson. We'll do ads." So, for a short time, it was my job to try to get hold of Michael Jackson so he could possibly endorse the use of small aircraft.

But it is the complaints I enjoyed the most. If Taco Bell shorted him a taco shell on a to-go order, he'd have me draft a letter to the president of Taco Bell asking for the extra shell. If his frozen fish sticks had a couple of black charred bits in the box, he'd write to the head of the company that made them, enclosing the charred bits and asking for a refund. I *think* the letters actually got sent, but there's always the possibility he was pulling my leg.

Over time, I got to transcribe some of the most amazingly bizarre letters anyone has ever sent anywhere.

Not to mention, Dr. X had a father who had been an inventor of some sort, and who now, looking a bit like Baron Munchausen, would dotter into the office holding a rough diagram and some scribbled words on a legal sheet or a napkin or god knows what, whereupon it would be my job to render it all accurately (and with some semblance of sense) into a WordPerfect document.

Those were the days. I actually took to using a mini-tape recorder myself and dictating my own story ideas into it, then transcribing them on my lunch break. But it was too much of a pain in the ass, so I went back to scribbling notes.

Working at Y for Dr. X was interesting, to say the least. It certainly wasn't the strangest job I've ever had, though, because Dr. X was just eccentric, living in his own world. He wasn't psychotic, he wasn't mean, just brusque. And from him I learned to have a great work ethic, because he himself had a monstrous work ethic that seemed to just about devour his life.

But I will never forget having to try to get hold of Michael Jackson to have him promote the use of small aircraft.



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