Workplace Stories: The Screaming Hole

screaming woman

For two years I had the honor of managing a group of medical transcriptionists at a good hospital.

It was a diverse group in every way. Most of them were post-menopausal women, who are the main battle tanks of the American workforce. These people did difficult clerical work quickly and accurately. They did not take sick days, nor were they late. They were polite, pleasant, and serious about their jobs.

They were also very strange people. Medical transcription requires analytical intelligence, reading comprehension, fast good typing, and patience. It’s for obsessives who love medicine and science, can spell perfectly, and feel personally and emotionally attached to good grammar and the formatting of reports. Most of them have inadequate educations for their talent. People like this are not normal in any way, thank goodness.

My responsibility was to shield these productive eccentrics from the management, and vice versa. This was largely a success and the short management career went very well.

One of the low points was set of new silly rules about lots of things, from an insulting and ambiguous dress code to bad pay changes. People who had been paid by the line for typing reports were to get hourly pay, for example, which wasn’t helpful to the most productive ones. The changes were resented. In the middle of this, the management coughed out another chunk of stupidity. A note was sent out asking us all to let management know what they could do to help us be better at our jobs! And happier, too!

People who are underpaid, and know where the hyphen goes in “salpingo-oophorectomy”, and type 100 wpm with zero errors, and know that the ilium and ileum are very importantly different, are not the ones you want to taunt this way.

The only real answer is “more money.” We all know what they want, though: pointless crap. A special lunch for employee of the month, ice cream socials with the executives, customer service training with cake.

Here are the requests I got:

  • Helmet-like popcorn makers attached to our heads so that popcorn would occasionally roll down into our mouths through a tube
  • Prozac-coated keyboards that would make us less crazy as we typed more, because in general the reverse was happening
  • A hole cut in the wall from our office to the unoccupied central courtyard, so that we could stick our heads through and scream when things were too much
  • Uniforms so that women wouldn’t have to make difficult postmodern decisions in order to comply with the new dress code.

I sent these along as requested to my boss, who was the CFO and a vice president. She was smart and gave a damn. She was also very conventional. She called me up and said “JESUS CHRIST, who are these maniacs you work with?”

“The best in the business and the most productive people here,” I said.

That year I got 15% more money than we’d been promised to give out as raises.

I still want a screaming hole, though.

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