When I worked at the bank almost 40 years ago, after I was promoted to senior programmer analyst, they told me to dictate all my memos, meeting minutes, and outside correspondence so that the administrative staff could then type them for my correction and approval. Sounds great, right? I mean, up to that point I had been writing everything out and giving it to the administrative people. Now, no writing, I’d just dial the number for the dictation equipment, identify myself, and start speaking. Easy-peasy, right?
Problem was, they offered no training on how to dictate a document. I was pretty much on my own.
Try as I might, I never quite got the hang of it. I would forget what I wanted to say, I’d get halfway through the next point and remember something I was suposed to say in the first point… in short, I was a real mess. I finally decided that the best way to deal with it was to write the whole thing out, then call it in and read it over the phone.
One day, I was reading one such memo over the phone and one of the administrative people, Linda, came up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder. Startled me and I dictated a couple of words I didn’t mean to.
"What are you doing, John?"
"Dictating a memo."
"So you’ve written the whole thing out and now you’re reading it into the phone?"
"They told me I have to do it this way."
She took the papers out of my hand. "I’ll be back."
Five minutes later, she was back with my memo, typed perfectly. "From now on, just bring it to me."
It worked for a while, then her boss found out what she was doing and went to my boss. We both got in trouble for it. I went back to writing out the memo longhand, calling the dictation number, and reading it into the phone.
Linda runs Stream of Consciousness Saturday, brought to you this week by Jif, the fine grind peanut butter. Choosy mothers choose Jif!