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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Holidays and missed calls

I should go away on holiday more often. It never fails. I plan a week off somewhere and the phone starts ringing. This time it was a week of skiing in the Alps, not far from our home in Lyon. My life as a free-lance translator had been relatively quiet in the weeks leading up to our trip, so I thought I wouldn’t be missing much.

On Tuesday of the week preceding our ski holiday I had a meeting with V., a prospective customer. I had been calling her company on and off for two years. She said she wanted me to translate their press releases, starting in a month, and to update a glossary in advance. A dream come true!

Just before I left, V. called and wanted me to translate an unexpected press release! For a combination of reasons, including negligence and mobile phone morbidity, I didn’t hear her message until 11pm that day, when I plugged in my cell phone into the wall outlet.

Worry set in. Had I made a bad impression? Would she ever call back? Would I get a chance to set things right? I phoned the next day from the cross-country ski trails, the following day from the downhill ski lift. Still no luck. Why doesn’t she return my messages? Does she despise me? Thus began a four-week, one-way game of telephone tag. Usually I got voice mail but occasionally I got a co-worker who said V. would call right back. She didn’t. Then suddenly, she resurfaced and sent me a draft of a contract. But still, no real contact. Then she sent me the originally-planned press release. Oh, and we had one five-minute conversation, but no opportunity to actually talk about translation issues.

By now I’d realized the missed phone message was not a problem. I was not the most disorganized person in the story. My customer had said she wanted to work with an independent like me, rather than with an agency, because the agencies never assign the same people to them, and they don’t have any direct contact with the translator. But given the way she and/or her company are organized, they can’t take advantage of the direct contact when they have it. Should I expect the worst? And just what is the worst?

Steve Sklar


Anonymous Anonymous said...

no, i wd not expect the worst, from the sound of it, she is just a little bit disorganized, that so happens. but one thing does ring true, the minute you start a journey to some exotic place because workload is low and you just as well might take a day off or two, the phone starts ringing... many the times, when customers caught me on some airport right before takeoff...;o)

7:01 AM  
Blogger Stanka said...

I have had similar experiences. The translation is urgent, very urgent, (by the way payment is usually much less urgent) you cancel your trip or weekend, and the client never appears or calls back.
The word is: if it is sooo urgent, ask sooner!

3:30 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I do agree:
if it is sooo urgent, ask sooner!
This is not about holidays only, either. When on a job, I do the job, instead of checking mail boxes and/or answering calls. I do not want anyone/anything to distract me, so that I might give my current client my best at my soonest. I suppose those that want me to reply At Once would not like me jabbering with others while on a job They have assigned me... So if they want quality, they can as well wait until I`m free to reply (the afternoon of the day, at the very latest, that would be, as I check my mailboxes and SMSs twice a day), but if they want me to reply Right Now, they are welcome to look for another translator, one who is likely to check messages instead of doing the job.

11:20 AM  

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