You recognize the allusion, of course. Hint: Mark Harris.
The question of the day, to be more specific, is why WAS I in the English Department? What on earth would possess any sane human being with a sliver of a normal sense of self-preservation to get a FREAKING Ph.D IN ENGLISH???????? What part of “you will never be able to get a decent job that will not leave you tearing your hair” can such a person fail to understand?
Today I engaged eleven years of advanced university education for EIGHT HOURS, trying to untangle the formatting mess left by yet another MS Wyrd crash and then doing things like searching “[any digit] + blank space + a” trying to find every reference to a time of day in 272 single-spaced pages so as to regularize format for each one, roughly according to Chicago style. With curlicues to make allowances for the author.
[Why would I do such a wacko thing? Because AU has written times of day as N a.m., N am, N AM, N:nn a.m., N:nn am, and NN AM. And so on. These all need to be regularized, made to follow the same style.]
So, here’s how this came down:
Last night around 11 p.m., I stumble away from the computer.
This morning around 8:30, I come back to the project. When I turn on the computer, I find a message: Word had to shut down.
This is a constant thing with MS Wyrd: for no good reason that anyone, human or silicon, can figure out, Word will crash. Out of the effing blue.
But this is something new, or so it seems: the program has gone down after I clicked Open-Apple > Sleep.
Fortunately, only three files were open at the time of the crash, one of them very short. Two are easy to restore.
Then we have 272 pages of client disquisition.
He is an articulate client who pays handsomely. And on time. An interesting man. The sort of client for whom one pines to do well.
The restored back-up file comes up and seems not to have lost much data (shouldn’t have: I saved before putting the computer to sleep).
No. It hasn’t lost data. Au contraire. It’s ADDED data.
Every. single. paragraph has been reformatted: “Not superscript/subscript,” proudly advertised in Word Track Changes.
Not a single footnote number was ever changed (on my part) from superscript to anything else. And nary a subscript character appears among a single word filling those 272 pages.
These changes are all intertwined with hundreds of edits — I’ve already read 100 pages, and every page has changes on it: at least a few and usually quite a few.
The only way to get rid of the phantom changes is to click “Accept.” If you reject the change, then it converts the copy to superscript!
There seems to be no way to search “superscript” or “superscript/subscript.” The list of edits doesn’t come up.
And — inconsistently, with no rhyme nor reason — in some paragraphs if I highlight the graf and click “accept all,” Wyrd keeps the tracked edits in place. But in some, it accepts all edits. That won’t do, because Client needs to see the changes I’ve made.
On average, each page has about ten of these “Not superscript/subscript” commands.
No joke: that means something like TWO THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED AND TWENTY spurious tracked changes to delete!
Shortly I figure out that I can go from the end of the file toward the last edited page and click “accept all” over batches of paragraphs. This isn’t very satisfactory, because I’ve done a number of global searches and replaces, and I really don’t want to lose those. So even though some of these “accept” commands work to get rid of the “not superscript/subscript” things, I have to watch carefully and Ctrl-Z to undo and manually fix each erroneously accepted “not superscript/subscript” command, ONE at a painstaking, mind-numbing, hair-tearing TIME.
This only partly lengthy procedure leaves about 100 fully edited pages to go through, ONE painstaking, mind-numbing, hair-tearing, goddamn infuriating command at a TIME.
Along about three in the afternoon, I find myself revisiting the question of whether I should shut down the editorial business.
I mean, why am I doing this?
If I wanted to be a typist, I’d hire out as a virtual assistant. Oh, hell. If I hired out as a virtual assistant, I’d make a helluva lot more than I earn as a high-test editor, because there’s one helluva lot more demand for virtual assistants. Some woman at the last meeting of the West Valley Writers group I attended dasted to ask me if I’d type her manuscript.
If I charged enough by the page, I’d make almost as much as I make editing content.
I can’t charge the client for work created because my computer crashed. So today I’ve spent a good six hours working for free.
Do I hate reading freshman comp drivel more than this?
I hate reading freshman comp drivel a lot.
Quite a lot.
But more than this?
If I took on two extra adjunct courses from the Great Desert University, which pays a Ph.D. almost a grand more than the junior colleges do, I’d earn as much per year as the S-corp earns from my editorial efforts. Actually, all told I’d earn about $3,000 more than that.
It would be miserable, of course. I’d have to hold out for face-to-face sections, which I truly loathe. GDU has lifted all caps from online sections, meaning you can end up with 120 students or more in a writing-intensive course. How on earth would you ever handle any such thing? You couldn’t assess papers. You couldn’t even make the faintest pass at trying to teach. All you could do is rubber-stamp.
Ethically, there’s a limit.
But maybe there’s a limit to this other stuff, too.
Teaching, as miserably paid as it is, provides the only steady, predictable income I have other than Social Security, which is nowhere near enough to live on. The junior-college courses plus the Social Security just about cover most of my expenses, except for property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and car insurance. If I drew down only enough to cover those latter gouges, I’d be OK. One or two more courses, paid at university rates, could mean that I wouldn’t have to use retirement savings at all. Not as long as I could mount a course on a CMS.
So. Why am I doing this?
Why am I not in the English Department?