Rule 284

Interpret for four and a half hours alone?  If I’m alone, I don’t even want to do something that feels good for over two hours.

Note from Uncle Dale: The Mind of Tommy Westphall

Hi everyone! Uncle Dale here… maybe.  I mean maybe I’m here… but maybe not.  That will be clear in a minute.  Maybe not “clear.” Clearer?  We will go with that.  

Much like my Note called “Enjoy the Little Things” this Note is only somewhat related to interpreting.  It mentions the word.  I would say it’s worth your time… but I don’t know your billable hours. 

Anyway.  Just for fun!  In the 1980s there was a critically acclaimed tv show called “St. Elsewhere.” It was a hospital drama; think ER/Gray’s Anatomy. St. Elsewhere is famous for its cutting edge storytelling but also for its final episode where, in the final shot, the camera pans out showing a snow storm and we see that the entire hospital is actual a snow globe being held by Tommy Westphall, a boy with Autism who is the son of one of the doctors. But we also find out Tommy’s father is not a doctor, he is a construction worker, suggesting that the whole show took place in Tommy’s mind. (Yep! Lost and The Sopranos did not invent the “whaaa?” ending).

So, here is the conundrum. If the whole show happened in the mind of a boy with Autism named Tommy Westphall–then if any characters from another show crossed over into St. Elsewhere’s universe they and their show must also have just happened in the mind of Tommy Westphall

This happened, a lot. 
Two doctors who identified themselves from being from St. Elsewhere spoke to Carla on an episode of Cheers. Bang. Cheers happened in Tommy’s mind. 

Thus if characters (not actors, the actual characters they played) from Cheers crossed over to another show then THAT show, by extension, was in the head of Tommy Westphall. Mapping this out people have connected over 400 shows from Andy Griffith to the Wire to Veronica Mars, to X-Files to Red Dwarf as “logically” occurring in the mind of Tommy Westphall. There is the set up.  

Ok?
Ready? 

Years ago I was an extra on show called Promised Land where I “played” an interpreter. I was uncredited, but the call list identified my character as me, “Dale the Interpreter.” Promised Land was a spin off of Touched By an Angel which had a crossover with X-Files which had a crossover with Law and Order which had a crossover with Homicide Life on the Streets which had two characters cross over from St. Elsewhere (after St. Elsewhere was already cancelled) which means… 

I only exist in the mind of Tommy Westphall. 
And by extension because you know me… you only exist in his mind too! 

You’re welcome.  

It’s Tommy Westphall’s World We Just Live In It  

http://www.wnyc.org/story/tommy-westphalls-universe-we-just-live-in-it/

Note from Uncle Dale: A Harsh Examination of the Interpreter  

So, you ask, Uncle Dale who are you… I mean in relation to the Deaf Community.

Good question.  I can only answer for me and certainly not for the Deaf Community.

As I see me, I am a facilitator of communication. I can be an ally, when it is appropriate (sometimes it’s not-sometimes what I see as ally behavior is actually Audism. All of my passion and experience and fluency does not save me from the things my hearing privilege hides from me).

Sometimes… sometimes I am a necessary evil (mental health treatment should not be interpreted–it should only happen directly in the language of the person needing therapy-oh and education. But this is not the world in which we live).

I am not the savior of the Deaf Community. I’m the hired help.

I always remind myself that the Deaf Community was resisting Audism before I got here and will still be fighting long after I’m gone.

I am not needed. What is needed is the work I do.  The work I do is needed and always appreciated, but sometimes the appreciation is… grudging; and that is fine. The Deaf Community does not need to love me AND THAT IS FINE.  I don’t have any say about how the Deaf Community should or should not feel about anything.  I can only make observations on what I see.

There is a level of ambivalence that always seems to exist between me and the community I love and serve. I exist in world where my work is greeted with appreciation and frustration at the same time.

Why? Well. I think of it this way. Imagine that, in order to breathe, you must employ the services of a person who touches the end of your nose-a certified nose toucher.

Now, it may not be that you can’t breathe, but in order to breathe effectively, and specifically at times of stress or when breathing effectively is vital, the services of a professional, certified “nose toucher” is needed (can’t do it for yourself, oh and you have horrible memories of the education system trying to teach you to touch your nose with your elbow, and everyone seems to have a suggestion of installing dubious microchips in your nose, but I digress).

So how would you feel toward the “nose toucher?” You would of course appreciate the “nose toucher” each and every time you took a clear and effective breath. But, you would also resent the fact that you had to depend on this other person for something so basic as breathing.

You would surely be angry each time someone talked to the “nose toucher” instead of you, as if you were unable to think instead of breathe.

Out of necessity you spend time with your “nose toucher,” and so you develop “a relationship,”  sometimes beyond the realm of “nose touching,” maybe even friendship.  But, that can lead to problems of its own. Line between friend and professional can be dangerous if it’s blurry.

Of course sometimes you will be assigned a “nose toucher” that you just do not like.  That’s a whole new level of frustration.

In the end no matter how much you appreciate the work of the professional, certified, “nose toucher” and even despite perhaps liking some of the “nose touchers,” they are people you must be with, not people you choose to be with. Every time they do their job you are grateful for it and also reminded of the fact that you are dependent on them. Appreciation and frustration. Sometimes you just want to go into the bathroom all alone and just choke. Sometimes you would rather just choke.

This is the way I imagine it, but I may be way off.  Even if I’m deaf on ambivalence does not diminish the importance of what I do or my love of doing it. It just keeps my head in the right place so I can do it effectively.

Who am I in relation to the Deaf Community? I am as helpful as I can be, as often as I can be. Nothing more nothing less.

Rule 264

Spend more time preparing to do a job well and you will waste less time developing excuses as to why it did not go well.

Rule 263

VRS Call Center, Saturday 2:30 AM. Your mother was wrong! Those smutty novels weren’t a waste of time; they developed your Extra Linguistic Knowledge for this call!

Uncle Dale’s “You Probably Should Know”: Agreements and Contracts 

The lovely and talented Aunt SuperTam says that when I say “probably” I actually mean “absolutely.” As in:

SuperTam: I’m right!

Me: Probably.

So, when I say interpreters should probably know this… well, you get the point.

I got a bunch of questions about contracts recently (one as recent as yesterday!) WAIT! Don’t go away.  This is actually less boring than it sounds. AND and there is a gift for reading to the end.  Here we go!

Rule 207 says interpreting without a contract means sooner or later just working for free.

Interpreting is a service, you can’t “repossess” it, once you provide it, it’s done and so is your leverage. So, providing that service without a contract in place beforehand means you accept the possibility that the entity that requested your services will just not pay you.  They may “roll the dice” on you not being able enforce your oral agreement with them or bet on you not pushing for payment under a theory like Quantum meruit (if you don’t know what that is then the odds of them getting way with it or you walking away without them paying you are in their favor).*

You need to have a contract or an enforceable agreement.

If you want to know how to write a contract talk to a lawyer in your area. This Post won’t replace the advice of an attorney; it’s just to help you think about what you and your attorney should discuss.

There are good examples of Terms of Service agreements used by other interpreters out there in cyber-space. It’s worth your time to look them over. The terms other interpreters use may or may not make sense to you at first.  There is a reason for that.

If you drive west on I-80 from Salt Lake City for about 40 miles and turn south around Dugway, then drive for several miles you will see a very large, very old billboard that reads “No Weapons Grade Nuclear Material Beyond This Point.”  You know why they put that billboard there? Because sometime or another they had a problem with that.

That is how contract terms are born, they fix a problem, and you may not have ever had that problem… but you don’t want it to happen once you know it could happen.

So… what problems do interpreters want to fix before they happen?

1. Pay

“Interpreter/Translator shall be paid a minimum of two hours and thereafter time shall accrue in units of 30 minutes each.”

“Rates: $150.00 initial two-hour minimum for interpreting services $60.00 per hour thereafter.”

Now, we all know what a two-hour minimum means.  But not everyone does.  I recently wrote a term for an interpreter that says:

Rates: $150.00 for the initial two-hours interpreting services, paid regardless of the actual time required to complete the interpreted activity less than two hours and $60.00 per hour thereafter. No other services are offered nor may be demanded of the interpreter. 

The interpreter showed up to interpret and the Deaf Client’s issue is resolved in 15 minutes, and the business claimed that if they paid for two hours she would stay the full two hours and handed her a stack of  papers to scan.  I kid you not.  So that is now a term.

You need to address special rate circumstances such as legal, Deaf/Blind andPerformance.  You may charge a differential for after hours.

2. Reimbursable Costs

Like mileage or parking or, depending on where you work, tolls, light rail or trains.

3. Unusual Travel/Time Cost

Travel of over 50 miles or requiring over 2 hours of travel or more one way should be billed portal to portal.

4. Coverage of Longer Appointments 

You will want a term that requires a second interpreter for appointments over two hours.  If you are so inclined you can offer to arrange this but make sure you include a term that absolves you from liability for the other interpreters actions and sets how you will be paid for getting the sub-contractor.

5. Cancellations and No-Shows

A “contract” is just an “agreement” and can be cancelled by either arty prior to any obligation maturing.  Wow there is more than you wanted to know, right?  What that means is a contract is not binding until one of the parties is obligated to do… something. So a term such as  Cancellations less than two business days before the beginning of the appointment will be billed for the full amount scheduled matures an obligation (the obligation to cancel) two business days prior to the  assignment and makes the whole thing enforceable.

You might also want to consider a specific term for appointments that require travel outside a radius of say 150 miles of your office or requiring additional planning, travel purchases, and hotel confirmations or appointments spanning multiple days.  I suggest requiring one week’s notice but I have seen terms of up to a month’s notice of cancellation to avoid being charged for the entire assignment.

No-Shows are billed without exception. Say that with me. NO-SHOWS ARE BILLED WITHOUT EXCEPTION!  Do not accept guilt when it is offered by others. You showed up.  You are not the Client’s keeper.  Client no-shows are a cost of doing business, but no your cost.  You showed up. One of your Clients showed up.  You did not call this meeting. You did what you contracted to do.

(Actual voice mail) “We just got your invoice and are frankly shocked you would try to charge us when your Deaf person (seriously… not the Client’s name, “MY Deaf person”) did not even show up.  We think you owe us an explaination.”   I gave them one:

“The Client (name) was scheduled for an appointment with your office, not with me.  I was contracted for an appointment at your office and I was there on time as ready to do my job as you were to do yours.  You may not and I will not accept passing your costs to me.  If you have any further questions I would refer you to our contract and specifically para. 2 wherein it states that I am paid a 2 hour minimum, initial-meaning that is the cost for me to show up, which I did; para. 4 that states No-Shows are billed without exception; and, para. 7 which explains the terms of payment.

Thank you for your business.

Believe it or not, they still call me when they have Clients who are Deaf.  It’s business not personal.

6.  Force Majure

This means one party or the other can’t fulfill the obligations because the very heavens have turned against them!  I suggest covering the most common acts of deity for your area specifically and others generally:

Cancellations due to weather will be billed unless otherwise negotiated or when a weather emergency has been officially declared by the authorities. Furthermore a party shall not be liable for any failure of or delay in the performance of this agreement for the period that such failure or delay is beyond the reasonable control of a party, materially affects the performance of any of its obligations under this agreement, and could not reasonably have been foreseen or provided against, but will not be excused for failure or delay resulting from only general economic conditions or other general market effects.

Not everyone feels the need to include these, but in this age of terrorism I am including these type of clauses more and more.

7. Payment Terms

Here is mine.  It’s pretty standard and I have seen almost exactly the same language in at least three Terms I found on-line.

Net due 30 days from the invoice date. Invoices paid within 15 days will be discounted 3.0%. Invoices paid late will be assessed an additional 5.0% for each additional 30 day period.

It’s a good idea to list all the ways they can pay you. PayPal is great. Venmo is my favorite.  Accepting credit card payments through Square is quick and easy but many banks have a similar system that charges a lower percentage so check with your bank!

8. Prices Subject To Change

Prices subject to change without notice. The prices listed herein are current as to the date of execution of this contract.  An up-to-date pricing list is available at my website. A notice will be emailed to the address on file if prices change more than 10% from those quoted herein. Scheduling an appointment will be considered agreement to pay current prices even if different from those listed above.

9. Subject To Availability

ASL interpreting services are subject to scheduling availability. This office reserves the right to refuse service to anyone at any time for any reason.

That is in no way a complete list of all terms that could be included.  The language is, as I said, just an example of standard language I have used or see used by others.  There are terms that may only apply to your geographic area you may want to consider.  In the end talk to a lawyer in your area.

I promised you a gift and here it is.  Almost every contract has a set of very standard terms.  Terms that are included if you are selling a car, hiring a landscaper, agreeing to trade goods for services or any other situation you can think to contract about.  Attached here are sample of standard language for those standard terms.  Again. Check with an attorney in your area before you cut and past them!

Have fun out there!

Services Contract Sample

*Someday ask me about the lawyer who taught me this lesson by refusing to pay me… it has a happy ending.