Monday, June 27, 2005

God, I Hope He Didn't See That

When I was just starting out as a legal secretary, it was the mid-80's. My boss was an old-fashioned guy who still dictated short letters and memos rather than using a tape recorder.

One day, he called me into his office to *take a letter.* For those of you under the age of thirty, to *take a letter* is when one person dictates whatever he wants to say in the letter and the other person writes down everything that is said in *shorthand.* *Shorthand* is a type of speedwriting in which letters and combinations of letters are written in a code made up of dots and lines and curves and then later deciphered. We also didn't have PC's (we had word processors), e-mail or fax machines and most of the bosses didn't know how to type. But, that's another post for another day.

When I finished taking the dictation, my boss got on the phone and I stood up and headed toward the door still looking at my *steno pad.* *Steno pad* is a phrase for a little spiral notebook which had a line down the middle and you wrote the dictation in *shorthand* on one half of the page and continued to the other half if it was a long letter.

At the same time as I was reading the *steno pad*, I was walking quickly toward the door because there was a very small window of time between taking down the letter in shorthand and being able to decipher it into a coherent document later. One of the problems with *shorthand* is that the lines and curves and combinations of lines and curves are all very similar and taken down more or less phonetically and very quickly. So, I always had to read my dictation immediately after I wrote it and make some quick notes so I wouldn't forget what was said.

As I was walking and reading, I ran right into the partially opened door with my right boob. Actually, I didn't just run into it, I crashed into it. I wanted to yell, 'F**k!' but, instead, just kept walking thinking my boss had turned his back to the door and had, hopefully, not seen anything.

When I got to my desk, my boss said, "Laurie?"

I said, "Sir?" (We were very polite in the olden days.)

"Did you just run into the door?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," I answered.

He asked, "Are you okay?"

"Yes, sir," I responded.

"Okay," he said.

"Okay," I said, out loud.

But in my head, "F**k!"


Lorna said...

Oh, ye olden days....much was mysterious. I'm so old that in one ofmy first jobs, I used a machine whose name I don't remember where you typed holes into a special paper and then another machine dusted something magical on the holes, and you had a blurry, dirty newsletter. Oh, it was fun.
And I've done the boob thing too---new bra, new lilmitations on the personal space thing. Of course, another problem gone with gravity.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

My wife was a whiz at shorthand. She's got samples around here THAT SHE CAN STILL READ! Years old. Hoo boy.

Lonesome George said...

What has taken the place of shorthand? Do attorneys type now? I have an assistant, but write my own letters. Do attorneys record their pronouncements into a recorder to by typed by others? What takes so many hours when someone else is doing your typings?? LG

Glod said...

Can you speak morse code also?

ariadneK, Ph.D. said...

Awesome blog. :-)

Laurie said...

Lorna - Remember mimeograph machines and that blue fluid that had such a unique smell?

Old Horsetail - I wonder if I can still read shorthand. I'll have to try that.

Lonesome George - Attorneys can type now but they dictate their long pleadings and summaries for transcription by other staff. The attorney bills for his time to research, review and prepare pleadings, summaries, etc. but the staff doesn't bill for their time to prepare drafts and finalize documents.

Glod - --- .. --- . - ..! (Ha! Ha!)

Ariadnek - Thanks!

Glod said...