Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Eliminating a career possibility

It was a pretty simple question on Jay Leon's "10@10" tonight: What was the worst job you ever had?

Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers said he had always been a quarterback, so he didn't have a good answer. I've got a better one.

At one point about 17 years ago, I was among the ranks of the unemployed. I was placed into a spot as vacation relief in a local printing plant as a proofreader. OK, that's close to a writer and editor, although I'm willing to admit that I'm a little more skilled at judging facts and writing than finding the odd typo.

As the jobs passed over my desk, one stuck out. The company was printing labels for paint cans, with lots of instructions for use.

But here's the catch: the labels were written in Portuguese.

Ever try to proofread a language that you've never seen before? It ain't easy. Portuguese isn't Finnish or Chinese, but it's still, um, foreign to me. I tried to go over groups of three or four letters at a time as I wound my way through the document, but the mind does wander in such circumstances.

I finished out the week there. For the next couple of months, I checked the newspaper regularly for news from Brazil: "Six thousand children were severely injured when they drank a glass of paint due to a typographical error on the can's label..."

For those who do such tasks every day (proofreading, not drinking paint), I salute you.

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