What does a hangman do on his day off?

What does a hangman do on his day off? I am proofing the transcriptions of Public Radio (PRI) podcasts, including The World, Science Friday and Innovation Hub, and I was recently confronted with this question. It turns out that the answer (in this interview, anyway) is that he raises roosters—for cockfighting! He adores his roosters and has even lost quite a bit of money on them, but he is really into this blood sport.

Pakistan recently re-instituted the death penalty after a school was bombed by the Taliban, leaving (approximately) 175 people dead. This put Massih’s family back to work as hangmen (they had had to find other things to do, apparently, when the death penalty was abolished).

The people he kills? He doesn’t even think about them. They’ve been on Death Row in Pakistan for many years, and hanging them is just a job for him. In fact, he’s the fourth generation of hangmen in his family: his dad taught him the ropes, as it were.

I now work (until January 8th) for Audible, the audiobook sector of Amazon. I proofread transcripts that were made in Chennai, India: first, by a machine, and then, corrected by humans who really don’t speak English, especially American English. So there’s plenty for me to do!

Another radio interview I heard was with the Nigerian-German (black) woman who recently discovered that her maternal grandfather is Amon Götz, a sadistic concentration camp Kommandant, who was portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List. Her book is subtitled “My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me.” A lot for her to assimilate at this late time in her life!!

I take the PATH train right from my corner at 7:30 a.m. and, when it comes above ground in NJ, I get the most wonderful sunrises! We go through a maze of old “lacework” bridges, antique infrastructure that is truly beautiful, on our way to Newark. In contrast to the MTA, the PATH is clean and the people on it, friendly (when they’re awake).

A van picks me up at Penn Station, Newark, and takes me to Audible, a 17-story building that is about ten minutes away by car. My schedule is very flexible, just as long as I somehow work exactly forty hours a week, and take an unpaid lunch of 30-60 minutes every day.

The lunch room is huge and takes up half of the fifteenth floor (I’m on twelve). Some days we have a guest chef (for example, my first day at work, the chef was from Senegal). On those days, there will be a long table featuring his food, in addition to the tables for the vegetarian specials, daily specials, salad bar and “Chef’s Table”, not to mention the desserts. All of it is VERY healthy eats, even the desserts.

Squished church: view from 15th-floor lunch room

Squished church: view from the 15th-floor lunch room

One day I came in after 1:00 and there were no cookies left. The next day, one of the cafeteria workers took me aside and told me that they had put out extra cookies—just for my 4:00 “high tea”! Another day we had bratwurst, and I told the chef that “we” (in Wisconsin) heat up the brats in warm beer before and after grilling them; no brat should ever be without some sort of beer flavor, even if beer is banned at lunch. She said that they were not allowed to use alcohol; but I pointed out that hot beer would not have much alcohol left in it, so she offered to try my “recipe” the next time.

Everyone in this company is sooo friendly! No one seems to even notice that I’m the oldest person in the company. I’m on a publishing floor, but it also has audio people, and I’m grouped with the latter. There is one other temp proofreader, Yoji, who is Japanese-American and very well-versed in the Chicago Manual. The two of us have been given PRI podcasts to proof, to begin with, and we’ll move on to manuscripts later, but we were supposed to get through over 300 podcasts in our first two weeks! That would have meant completing at least twenty-five a day! Some of the longer ones held us back to five a day; now that we are working with shorter ones, we can almost do ten a day. So we are running a bit behind (but, in all fairness, the Indian team makes so many mistakes that they are holding us back). I just hope that will force them to keep us longer than January!

Although you could hear a pin drop when everyone’s working, there are ping-pong tables and chess boards in the lunch room, at least when lunch isn’t being served. Many people have their group meetings there, too, so they can take advantage of the cappuccino and latte machines, as well as the yogurt and other healthy snacks that are always available.

There is a gym on the first floor that I investigated: but, as no one is monitoring it, it’s a bit of a mess, with weights piled all over and machines that are cluttered up with other stuff. I’d do better to stick with one of the twenty (or so) gyms that are in my neighborhood and are better run.

There’s also a large “quiet room” on our floor, where you can work totally undisturbed, as well as conference rooms (with glass doors and walls) that are similarly soundproofed. The latter have huge screens in them so you can have Skype meetings with colleagues anywhere in the world (we recently had one with our colleagues in Chennai, India).

Our work tables in our work stations go up and down, so you can work standing or sitting, which is great for my back. We have a food pantry stocked with a huge range of coffees and teas, as well as apples, pears, health bars, cereals and a fridge with goodies in it, as well.

About fifteen feet behind me, in the Audio section of work stations, are huge windows (which are everywhere, making this a sunny place to work). The views are spectacular, not only of Newark, but of NJ and even the foothills of the Appalachians by the Delaware Water Gap, maybe fifty miles (or more?) away. On the window directly behind me, however, one audio guy took a red marker and wrote all over the glass, using it for a whiteboard. It adds something to the view, although I’m not sure what!

View of Broad St. Sta. with squiggles

View of Broad St. Sta. with squiggles

In short, I’ve found my niche in life—and a company to go with it—and I couldn’t be happier! Maybe I would have had more security at that bank that wanted me, but I surely would not have had as much fun! And isn’t that what work is supposed to be? If it’s half of your life, you’d better have fun doing it!

Broad St. Sta. without squiggles

Broad St. Sta. without squiggles

Cathedral, Newark, NJ: from 12th-floor Audio Dept.

Cathedral, Newark, NJ: from 12th-floor Audio Dept.


About Nancy

Nancy Hoffmann began studying Zen Buddhism in 1992 and has dedicated this site to meditating on what she sees and believes. She is not averse to sharing laughter as well.
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