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I work for the government. If you read what I have to say about that in this entry, I may have to kill you.

Giggle, giggle. This is New Zealand. And my job didn't even exist until February this year, when special votes were counted and Gumption Green, the 14th of the Tree Pretty Party's MPs and last one into the House of Representatives after the election, was getting ready to take her seat in parliament. Gumption is profoundly deaf. She can't hear a thing, and, though she's perfectly capable of lipreading her way through daily life, following the antics of our 121 fast-and-furious mouthy MPs in the debating chamber is a bit much for anyone to follow visually. That's where I come in. I (and some darned awesome others) feed a live transcript of everything that happens in parliament sessions to Gumption's laptop.

It's a cool job. It's not one you have to be highly intellient to do, though a good knowledge of current affairs helps a lot. Basically, my job is to type really, really fast. Though it's not the only thing you need to be good at, the one thing you can't do this job without is a pretty damn good typing speed. The average New Zealander, as I tell every hapless exam student with a broken arm whose exam essays I transcribe, speaks about 200 words a minute. I'd be very surprised if some of our rapid-fire MPs don't well exceed that standard. Very, very good typists can get to speeds of about 105 words per minute. The kiwi average typing speed is, dont hold your breath, 30 wpm. You, as a person who uses the Internet, probably type considerably faster than that. I do, but there's always going to be a gap between that 200+ spoken words and the typed transcript. That distance is made up by a combination of paraphrasal, keyboard shortcuts (the mechanics of which I won't go into) and practice.

Yuck, practice. But typing's a skill, and like any skill you gain and lose ground depending on how much you practice. I typed just over 60 wpm when I started in this type of work, and I've improved a lot on that number (it's so NICE to work in a way that gives you such concrete yardsticks to measure your progress against!) just by working three days a week typing like a maniac for the sensible, shout-y people in our parliament. The sticking point is that I don't always get to do that. Politicians, bless them, organise their year so they keep ON having blocks aof two or three weeks off. And may I tell you now, two weeks off wreaks havoc with your typing abilities. I walked into the office today wearing warm gloves, cracking my knuckles and remarking "my fingers don't feel very speedy today". And they didn't. And it can well and truly suck when your fingers aren't feeling speedy. I've repeatedly called our dear Prime Minister the 'pom' on non-speedy days, becasue 'o' is typo-ishly close to the 'p' key so necessary for typing 'PM'. During a typing demonstration, I misheard a debate on some Bill restricting rights, and typo-ed onto the projector screen that this bill would result in "restrictive tights", which isn't a current political issue. The IT guys laughed quite a bit.

I try to mitigate this kind of dumb mistake by warm-ups. Have you guy ever learned the piano? And you know how your teachers would make you do scales, endless scales, and arpeggios to warm your hands up? It's like that. Before Gumption arrives at her computer ready for the debating session, I give the keyboard a thorough bashing. My brilliant method is to write out song lyrics. It's the handiest and best, patented Te Aroha method of warming your hands up. You already know the lyrics, so you're not slowed down by going "testing... one, two, three", and you take care to pick a song with a tempo that's speaking speed or quicker. I normally type out "I'll make a man out of you" from Mulan. D'you reckon the songs you choose are indicative? Cause today, in the five minutes before the Speaker opens parliament, I typed this into the transcript:

"I will follow him follow him whereever he may go. There's no mountain too high that will keep, no ocean too deep for my love, he is my destiny. I love him, I love him, and where he goes I'll follow, I'll follow - "

And Gumption, breaking tradition by being early, typed back "Lovely lines :) "

AAAAAAAAAAAARGH. Is a Deaf person likely to recognise ancient pop music? Tomorrow, I think I'll turn off the keyboard first.

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Comments

tearoha
Jul. 19th, 2012 12:38 pm (UTC)
:D It is a bit fantastic! And it's a cool story.

The names of my politician and her party are, shall we say, allusive, rather than truthful. I don't want to come up on any Google searches!