Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Dictator of the Worst Kind

I am sure all careers involve tasks that are far from exciting.  Many of those tasks surely involve paper work.  Architecture is no exception.  For me, it is writing meeting minutes.  In 20 years, I have probably written hundreds, maybe even thousands of meeting memos.  These documents record the issues discussed at meetings, obviously.  The goal is to describe what happened, who is on task to follow up, and when.  In the design phase it is usually listening to the Owner describe the program requirements, and recording decisions.  During construction, minutes can be as dry as gypsum board.  Not very glamorous, but I have spent many hours of my life dictating meeting minutes.

Dictating?  Yes.  When I started out, most people used a microcassette dictator to record their voice, essentially reading the minutes.  That’s how I did it too.  This was before your phone was your personal assistant.  A very lucky person in our clerical staff was entitled to listen to my dulcet tones for who knows how long.  We do very large projects.  Sometimes our meetings go for two days, literally.  The tapes are 60 minutes each side.  I’ve filled both sides occasionally.  You thought you had it bad.  Imagine the poor person who had to listen to me drone on for two hours.

The height of 1990's technology.  It's kind of like the thing Star Lord has in Guardians of the Galaxy, only smaller.

I don’t typically still dictate.  I will occasionally, but only if there is a good reason.  I can type reasonably well.  I have also dabbled in voice recognition software for punch listing.  Nonetheless, when someone has to listen to a tape of someone else and type along, there are bound to be hijinks.

I remember one hysterical typo that made it through spell check many years ago.  I was dictating the minutes of a meeting that involved a skilled nursing facility.  These buildings typically have serving pantries for residents’ meals.  What is it called when a word contains other words within it?  Never mind, just drop the ‘R’ from ‘PANTRIES’ and you see where I am going with this.  I caught the ‘panties’ in my proof read, thankfully.

I cannot help but to try and be somewhat creative with word choice.  I mean, you can only say ‘shall’ and ‘follow-up’ and ‘schedule’ so many times.  I blame it on growing up with an English teacher for a mother.  Just a few years ago, I was writing about a project to replace a critical cooling tower for an apartment building.  Obviously, one would endeavor to do this work in cooler weather rather than hot.  I could have said that.  Instead I said, “It was discussed that there would be no air-conditioning shut down in the throes of summer.”  I don’t know from where the term “throes of summer” came.  I was watching a lot of Game of Thrones at the time I suppose.  I thought it fit, but apparently, the person at the other end of the microcassette thought it was hilarious. 

Within a few days of me turning in that tape, I found this in my email:
My Fabio fifteen minutes.
A little while later, I found the photo taped to a bit of foam core and placed on our library shelves in the office, in the Mike’s Pick section.  Mike is our managing partner.  It stayed on the shelf until almost Christmas.  I finally checked out the book permanently before our client party.

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The lesson learned is, always find passion in even the minute details of your job.