Transcription in An Earthquake

They say only the best workers, the most resilient of folk will work through a natural disaster. Gael, though of Irish descent and therefore, generally speaking, “hearty stock,” never thought he might have to put this theory into practice. Verily, this is the precise reason he opted for New York over Los Angeles: fewer phenomena centered around fault lines.

When it came to Gael’s ancestry, the lore surrounding one of the only earthquakes ever felt in Ireland back in 1984 had deeply affected his fear of this genre of force majeure. His grandmother had been injured in the fallout, a story she told to him time and time again during his childhood and adolescence. So ingrained in him was the horror she experienced that he almost felt as though he himself had been with her on that day in July.

Thus, in spite of being offered a transcription position in “Hollywood” before immigrating to the U.S., he chose New York, which offered far fewer options in the field–or, at least, options that could be considered even faintly glamorous. This is easily the reason why on a typical hot August day–August 23rd, to be exact–in 2011, Gael found himself watching footage for a speculative reality TV pilot called Swinger Wives–not to be confused with the similarly named Sister Wives. The show, of course, followed a number of couples living in Atlanta as they attempted to navigate their way through the mid-40s world of sexual experimentation with other married couples. Gael couldn’t imagine anyone hearing impaired wanting to watch it. But then, transcription was the type of business he couldn’t grasp in general. That he had a talent for comprehending muddled speech in all its various forms and intonations was merely happenstance–a way to make money–it didn’t mean he could fathom why a deaf person would want to spend his or her time watching media. This wasn’t to say Gael was an “audist”–if anything he felt those without the ability to hear were superior, possessed a magical ability to tune out all the bullshit.

Moreover, Gael was of the belief that if an earthquake ever did hit, the deaf would have the fortune of being able to intuit its advent more sharply through feeling–and therefore ahead of everyone else. But these thoughts were but minimal germinations in the back of his mind as he listened to one of the lead characters on the show, Mimi, complain of her jealousy over how much her husband wanted to fuck Rihanna.

How had this become his profession? Gael wanted to be the person who wrote the scripts for television, not transcribe them. If his mother could see what he had come to America for, she would be appalled. In her mind, Gael was a successful member of the media juggernaut. He didn’t have the heart to tell her just how marginal and replaceable he was in the field.

Sitting among a number of other transcribers wearing similarly oversized headphones so as to be able to capture the most sonic information in an expedient fashion without having to replay unless absolutely necessary, Gael suddenly felt, all at once, as though he was shaking. At first, he couldn’t say if it was the sort of shake that comes from the feeling of being completely alone in a room full of people or a genuine tremor.

The others around him seemed determine to ignore it at first, but after several more powerful quakes, the employees were instructed to huddle under their desks. Gael, on the other hand, had a far more fight or flight notion, escaping out onto Varet Street from the ground floor to find floods of people evacuated onto the SoHo streets as a precautionary measure.

By the time he had returned home, everything in New York appeared normal again. He checked his email to find a chastising message from his boss for leaving abruptly and without notification. Gael, without hesitation, responded, “I couldn’t stay. This life of working for middling pay even in the most inhumane of conditions is not for me.” Five years on, Gael had, incidentally, moved to Los Angeles, where he experienced several “land tremors” while working in office buildings throughout Santa Monica, Hollywood and Glendale. But he figured if such a thing could happen even in New York, he might as well live in California.

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