Friday, December 19, 2008

My RA job: a flashback montage

I don't think I've blogged about my RA job yet. So here's the deal: the rest of my peers got TA jobs where they did things like run discussion groups, mark papers, teach people how to use photoshop, and other tasks that require at least some degree of intelligence, skill and mental stimulation. I was assigned to be the research assistant for a professor who's writing a book on women in the CBC in the '50s to '60s, and a journal article about Canadian feminist newspapers. 

Right up my alley, you might think. This is also probably what the director of my program thought when he assigned me the job (it was either that or 'A feminist, eh? We'll show you what we do with THOSE'). Well, yes, except that my main duty was transcribing interviews word for word with very, very, very old people, who mumble, trail off into unrelated anecdotes, and get angry when they're asked questions they don't remember the answer to. Ten hours of that a week gets a bit tedious, to put it mildly.

Well, today I finished it. I transcribed the very last word of the very last interview, after plowing through three weeks worth of backed up work. And so in commemoration, I present to you My RA Job: The Montage.

(Cue music. Violins, perhaps.)

Scene 1

(Claire walks up to the Special Collections desk at Library and Archives Canada.)

Claire: Hello, I would like to order this list of audio materials.

Desk lady: (Types them into computer) I'm sorry, but these are not available for use at this location.

Claire: Um, then how am I supposed to listen to them, since that is my job?

Desk lady: They are only available in the main storage location in Hull. They are open only on weekday mornings. Very, very early on weekday mornings.

Claire: But I go to school on weekday mornings.

Desk lady: Well, then I suppose you'll just have to get there extra early.

Claire: Please check one more time before I die of a heart attack.

Desk lady: Alright, but... oh wait... ha ha, I entered the number wrong. They'll be here in two days.

Claire: *Dies of a heart attack*

Scene 2: The audio consultation room of Library and Archives Canada

Claire is transcribing an interview in which not one, but two Very Very Very Old Ladies are interviewing EACH OTHER.

VVVOL1: Now, if you could remember anything about the women's senate party in 1763...

VVVOL2: Oh, now, let's see, yes, I wore a red dress, no, no, it was blue, and it was Mary, no, Marjorie, who put on the party.

VVVOL1: Oh yes, wait, no, it was Mary, it was Mary after all, and your dress was red.

VVVOL2: Yes, yes, I remember now, and oh, didn't they have the nicest sandwiches.

VVVOL1: Yes, but now, what were we talking about, oh yes, the women's senate party, and you made that speech...

VVVOL2: Oh my, yes, now that speech, I wrote that speech while I was caring for my husband, who was injured in the war, you know, and back in those days, the only medicine available was cod's liver oil and pressed garlic...

VVVOL1: Oh dear, I believe we've gotten off topic again, now where were we, oh yes, the women's senate party of 1763...

(Claire ejects the CD and throws it across the room like a frisbee. It hits a security guard. She waves.)

Scene 3: The Special Collections desk again.

Claire: Hello, I just had a question about the material on this CD...

Desk lady: *Goes white* Oh God. Oh God. Did you take that... from the audio consultation room?

Claire: Well, yes...

Desk lady: Into the hallway???

Claire: Yes, but it was just a few feet, and I...

Desk lady: No archive materials are ever. Ever. Supposed to leave. That room.

Claire: Oh, OK, well, sorry, but if you could just answer my quick question...

Desk lady: *Grabs Claire by elbow* I must immediately escort you back. Please keep your eyes forward and the CD visible at all times.

Claire: Uh, alright, sure, but I was just wondering if this is the right recording, because I was looking for...

Desk lady: *Hisses* Never. Ever. Do. That. Again.

Claire: *Dies of a heart attack*

Scene 3: The audio consultation room of Library and Archives Canada

Claire is sitting in one of the little cubicles with headphones, attempting to put one of those giant reel to reel tapes on the tape player. Every time she successfully balances on the player, it plays for a few seconds then falls off.

Claire: $&@*#($*!@&#!(!!!!!!!

People from the neighbouring cubicles give her dirty looks.

Claire: Sorry. *$^#@*#$@!!!!! Does anyone else know how to work these things?

Everyone either ignores her or shakes their head no. Claire tries one more time and this time the entire tape falls off the reel in a tangled mess.

Claire: MOTHER &@#$^@!##$!!!!!

Claire stands on a chair twirling the reel in an attempt to untwist the tape. A security guard walks by. Claire waves.

Scene 4

Claire is transcribing an interview on her laptop at her apartment.

Terrified researcher on tape: So, can you tell me what year that was? '51? '52?

Old lady: Well, now, I don't know! That was 40 years ago!

Terrified researcher: But you can't give me even a rough idea of when, was it before the national broadcasting conference, or after...

Old lady: National broadcasting, now, it was called the broadcasting conference of Canada! Don't you know? Haven't you read anything?

Terrified researcher: Uh, yes, right, I'm sorry, I'll make a note...

Old lady: Now you're rustling your papers! That's going to make noise on the tape! Don't you know anything about broadcasting?

Terrified researcher: Uh, I... sorry...


Anyway, it's been fun, and it is with regret that I must take on another position. But all good things must come to an end.

Excuse me while I mine my parents' wine rack.


Sonya said...

But...what will you tell stories about next semester?

Sharing turns misery to amusement.

Amy said...

You're awesome.