Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Better Than Stenography

Three questions led to my current employment.

“How sharp is your memory for words?”

“Does it extend to print?”

“How much would you fancy having your hair trimmed daily?”

Mine is unorthodox employment, but it pays well and relies upon a rich organization, which suggests it will continue to pay well. Some four years ago I was a mere stenographer and clerk at the local courthouse, and there came this curious case. A man was accused of assaulting a barber. He passionately defended himself for eight minutes, then took notice of me. He stared all the way through the guilty verdict and his slap on the wrist.

Afterwards he waited outside the courthouse and accosted me. He had no gripe and stayed a polite distance. This was only about a few questions and a proposition. How sharp was my memory for words? Did it extend to print? And how much did I fancy having my hair trimmed daily?

It appeared some sixteen hundred pages of Benjamin Franklin's papers were in the possession of a London barber. They were family treasures, discarded carelessly during that great American’s tours of Europe and stowed away by a sharp maid. The barber was gregarious and allowed his patrons to read them. He forbade them to be copied or taken; he was very possessive, as they were quite valuable and fetched him some deal of publicity. There was no way to remove them short of burglary, and in addition to being a burly man, he was one door down from the police.

My accoster hailed from a historical society that very much wanted record of Mr. Franklin's words. While most tried to bribe or threaten the barber, one simply sat in the chair, reading them. He took a shave every day for five weeks, verifying these papers and perusing history. But he was very slow and no account he could memorize was exact. That led to his little scuffle and attempt to steal some, which he insisted the barber had exaggerated.

Through me he needn’t actually have the originals. I have a fine memory for words – I can recall several hundred in exact order, maintaining colloquial flair, hours after the fact. It is the nature of my work. Or, it was the nature of my work. Now the nature of my work is a leisurely morning shave, at ten times my previous salary. Whatever I read in the barber's chair, I would reproduce in transcription at lunch time. The historical society also covers my lunches, which I tend to take at historic restaurants.

It has been a jolly four years. I have learned much about Mr. Franklin's hedonism, the founding of the United States, and the simple joy of reading slowly when it pays.


  1. That certainly would be a job worth having. Too bad I wouldn't have qualified. Good story!

  2. Hee! I'd take that job.

    Wouldn't need the shave, but my hair does grow extraordinarily fast.

    [think it's that werewolf bite from halloween]

  3. What a great job! And it even includes free lunches for four years. Why don't they ever list jobs like that at the employment agencies? :D

    Excellent work, and your reading was really enjoyable.


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