In the middle of an ordinary interpreting assignment the thread of communication has been yanked roughly from your hands. You wince inwardly, you look down for the welts you’re sure you’ll see striping your palms, you look to the person who did the yanking… it’s that awkward moment when you blame your consumers for being less intelligent, upright, or even as honest as you initially thought. The conversation took a turn that you didn’t foresee. Your prediction let you down. That’s what you think, at least.
I was once pleasantly surprised on a job that I thought would be a challenge. I was called to interpret an improv acting class. I prepared myself for the environmental challenges like the noisy and chaotic environment, but I was more concerned with being able to follow the quick topic and scene changes. Before the first round of their warm up was complete, I realized that my preparation was unnecessary in this case. Simply by acknowledging that there would be an element of the ridiculous, crude and tangential, not only did my interpretation work well but it felt good too. I held the thread gently in my hands and let it pull itself where it would. No welts. No blame.
This experience made me think of those awkward moments in other settings. People lie at work. People make things up. People make rude comments. People under the influence don’t communicate clearly. These things come up while I’m on the job, and they tend to yank the thread that I’m handling. In this profession I’ve gotten good at reading people and situations, knowing what to expect from most situations I’m in. What I need to do is remember that life is an improvisation. The setting and the consumers I’m serving are not following a script; even if they were, who’s to stop them from winging it?
Photo by Heather