Thursday, December 06, 2007

x365: 53 of 365: wolfgang

Does anyone remember that passage from Zen And The Art Etc. where the narrator describes the kind of person who writes instruction manuals? They tend to be the most useless ones in the shop, the ones who make the most mistakes, cause the most trouble or accomplish the least. So what sort of surprise is it, the narrator reasons, that the manual in your hands is incomprehensible?

I think that the craft of technical writing has largely been professionalized over the last few decades, but the same holds true for cheap interpreters. Wolfgang was better than cheap; he was free, courtesy of the municipal government in the obscure province of western Austria where we were headed. He told us, when we dropped by the Rathaus to pick him up, that he didn't necessarily get along with all the interviewees.

— That one, he said, landing a finger on the call sheet. He is a Nazi.

— What?

— Jah, last time we spoke I called him a Nazi.

Auspicious.

4 comments:

lotus07 said...

Well, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, and goose-steps like a duck.......

palinode said...

lotus07 - It turned out that the person he called a Nazi was a ninety year old retired schoolteacher who had been a little too welcoming when the Nazis took over back in the '30s. So yes, if it Heils like a duck and goose-steps like a duck, then... HOLY SHIT, NAZI DUCK! WE'RE DOOMED!

Nat said...

Hey! As a technical writer, I have to...well, that description kinda fits my colleagues. But NOT ME!

palinode said...

I was going to write "Those technical writers all suck, except for Nat," but I thought it might have creeped you out a bit.