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March 29, 2006

trust the universe

My interpreting teammate, "Wanda," kinda upset me today. There are object lessons all the way around! First, I should've spoken up but was in some kinda 'mood', so I didn't. Second, I could have trusted that the universe would 'get even' with or without my assistance, but by then I was fuming . Third, none of it mattered anyway - at least not in the grand scheme of things.

What happened? (Sounds kinda dramatic, doesn't it?!) I was waylaid en route to the job by one of the leaders (not deaf) telling me about a videotape to be shown that my team interpreter had suggested we could take turns viewing in advance (during the job). I inquired about some of the particulars. Audio challenges, of various sorts. Yeah, a preview would help, but was it necessary? Of course, she was just trying to be responsive to previous feedback that it is really helpful for interpreters to be able to preview uncaptioned videos.

Then I entered the room and Wanda told me the same thing. There was a video and we should take turns previewing it.

I was annoyed.

Why was I annoyed? Who knows. Maybe I thought they'd wrested control away from me, or made decisions without my input. Or maybe I was just in a grouchy mood and was looking for something to be pissy about? At any rate, I was disgruntled but tried to put a good face on things. After all, it was a gorgeous early spring day and everyone else seemed in fine spirits! Who was I to put a damper on things? "I'll just go along," I said to myself. "Don't make waves."

"Do you want watch it first or...", my voice trailed off. "You can," Wanda states (definitively, in my view. There goes my attitude up another notch!) I wheel the tv/video cart into the next room, plug in and settle down for 28 minutes of viewing pleasure. At least it is a good video. I won't mind watching it twice in short succession. I return to the meeting room and relieve Wanda. Who sits down with the obvious intention of not going to watch the video! "What the...?!???"

I sign an aside during a lull in the interpretation. "Are you going to watch the video?" "Yes, I will," Wanda says. Going nowhere. Do I have a bug up my butt or what?!!! Soon, the leaders discuss the course of events....finish this, watch the video, do something else. "Can you take over?" I ask, steaming. Because obviously now there's no time for equal prep and I'm going to have to do the whole thing. Hmmph!

And so it goes. Wanda interprets until the short break before the video, at which time she's ready to dash off to watch the first ten minutes or so. I told her not to bother. My attitude is s-h-o-w-i-n-g! and I know it, so I confess, I'm annoyed that you'd made this plan without consulting me to begin with and then changed it and I didn't know what the heck was going on....blah blah whine complain.

Turns out Wanda has had her own stress! I go out to view the video and the meeting begins with a dense exposition of material that is extremely challenging to understand without supplementary context. One of those we-all-know-what-we're-talking-about-and-you-don't kind of coded conversations. Wanda panicked because I'm not there to provide feeds and moral support. ("Serves her right," I mutter.) No, I didn't really. LATER we laughed about it together, but in the moment we had to just carry on. She suffered through mis/non/incomprehension while I scowled at a tv screen. (Vindication? Apparently the prep did improve the eventual interpretation of the video - and I guess my disgruntlement didn't show.)

The real rub? It wasn't even Wanda's idea to do the previewing! She went along with a suggestion by the group leader! So both of us were duped into a set-up that didn't work for either of us (and hence, not at peak efficiency for the group using our services).

Two lessons. REAL previewing of videos is still a way good idea. Which does require planning and coordination.

Noting those scritchy feelings when they come up is good professional practice. Better practice is being able to somehow figure out what the scritchiness is about and resolve the situation before it leads to ulcers and other communication debacles.

Posted by Steph at March 29, 2006 11:21 PM


it is cool that you are thinking about this stuff. seems interpreter's inability to communicate through the process of assignments can create alot of frustration. interesting that in this scenario of quick decisions without enough communication, you were led to think i was being a "controlling slacker." when in my mind, i was being a "martyr" to my team, and attempting to take steps to create an ideal interpretation for the consumers. at the same time i am wondering, "what did i do wrong, why is she so angry with me?" i did learn several important lessons:

1. the need to be really honest with each other about what we think is the best decision for teaming, and what will produce the optimal interpreting situation for the consumers (as quickly and efficiently as possible).

2. frustrations arise and compound from not being able to communicate our needs/ concerns/ frustrations/ during the interpreting process.

3. we need to trust each other that our minds and hearts are engaged and we are both trying to create the best possible interpretation for consumers.

4. we need time and materials to prep BEFORE class starts. (duh!) leaving the team to terp while the other watches a video is not worth it.

in your blog, i am surprised you didn't emphasize the fact that because you previewed the tape, your interpretation was stellar... you interpreted EVERYTHING perfectly. if you hadn't viewed it, you would have missed info. this proves that prepping works, but as we learned yesterday, shouldn't happen during class time. also, what became clear to me afterward was that we should have discussed this before you left to watch the tape. .

another take home point that was clear to me through this, is that frustrations arise because interpreters cannot communicate about their needs and intentions while we are doing the almost impossible multiple brain and physical tasks involved with interpreting. as a result, assumptions prevail, and frustrations mount. for example: i thought i was doing you a favor by saying "why don't you go watch the video first." i was exhausted from a long trip the day before, and didn't actually want to start interpreting the class. i would have much preferred to watch the video first, thinking this would ease me into the morning. in my mind i was being the nice girl, in your mind i was being controlling. as soon as class started, and i needed your team support, but you were out of the room, i regretted this decision. shoulda talked!

instead of checking in with you first, and telling you my preference, i jumped to what i thought was a generous decision in order to save time. at this point the class was underway, and someone had to begin. but from what you say, it seems like you would have actually preferred to stay and interpret or not watch the video at all. (we both did what we thought the other wanted us to do, instead of what we really wanted- oops!)

also, it seems a misunderstanding occured when you started to interpret, and i sat down to team with you. the reason that i didn't go to watch the video right away was because i felt it was more critical to support and team for the challenging speakers after i just went through a tough stretch alone. in my mind, i was being a supportive teamer, in yours i was blowing off the video. after you asked if i was going to watch the video i said "I will." saying this while the class discussion was occurring seemed more efficient than, "i just went through hell interpreting alone, and i don't want you to have to experience that, so i will wait until the break, watch the video for that 15 minutes plus the 15 minutes afterward so that we are both teaming together for as long as we possibly can." if i communicated that to you at that moment, a whole bunch of dialog would have been lost in the interpretation.

it was a disaster of not being able to communicate our needs through the process, getting frustrated because of this, letting emotions control interactions, coupled with the fact that we did not have a clear idea of scheduling nor a clock to watch (bad interpreters, bad!!) seems your frustrations only increased because you did not know the rationale for my decisions, which were always attempting to be in the best interest of the student. "How can we provide the most clear, efficient and accurate interpretation?" It is a hard task, but a mantra we live by...

so that leads to the question of how do we do all this during the process of team interpreting? should we suspend class and say "interpreters need to confer for a moment, please hold?" it is that internal locus of control issue. we could have easily done that at the beginning of class to clarify and communicate with each other. would that interfere, or be the best solution for this?

wheh! enough processing for one night,

Posted by: "Wanda" at March 31, 2006 12:30 AM

gosh you make me laugh! :-)

I appreciate your thoughtful response, very much. Our cycle of assumptions and apparently benign decisions could have continued to escalate wildly out-of-control. I know we'd already nipped by through our verbal debrief during the job, but we could have left it at that, or even completely forgotten the whole affair. Instead we've managed to dissect and debrief it in some immediate detail!

Now the challenge will be if we can actually TRANSFER most/some of the learnings to the next similar situation!

FYI (since perhaps this isn't clear yet) - I don't think there is a credible reason why I should have been as grouchy as I was - there were other (external, non-job-related) things bothering me that day and they impeded my sanguinity in the moment. I'm sorry the circumstances became a foil for some of my general agitation!

I agree with you, it IS dang complicated stuff we do, in circumstances that perhaps ought not to feel so life/death pressured but somehow they do... I sure wonder why/how we get so sucked into feeling that there's so little we can do to manage the conditions of our labor...

Posted by: Steph [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 31, 2006 12:38 AM

...and I was thinking you were grumpy.

Posted by: Ruth at April 1, 2006 9:29 AM

cripes - you could TELL all the way from Hoosierville? Poor Wanda, who had to actually be in the same room with me!!

Posted by: Steph [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 1, 2006 2:02 PM

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