911 Translation

I lost a job last week.

It was a 30-page translation on children’s rights, a subject I’ve worked on regularly since summer. It would have been a straightforward job, and although in Senegal I accept fees at half my regular rates elsewhere, the amount would have nicely rounded out the end-of-the-month finances (translation: bring us back to zero).

So what went wrong?

It was a classic example of the warning that my old boss in Rome used to have pinned to her noticeboard:

A lack of planning on your part
does not justify an emergency on my part.

I was first called about the job on Thursday 20 November. The document was for a high-level meeting and the deadline was the start of the meeting, Tuesday 2 December. As usual, I asked for a copy of the document, to assess the length and complexity of the job.

First problem: the document would not be ready until Monday 25 November because the author was still working on it. Par for the course, I thought. But there would still be enough time to turn it around.

Monday. No news.

Tuesday. Nothing. I call. The document had just arrived. I got a copy, gave it the once over and sent back my pro forma and deadline: Next Monday, 1 December. This was accepted. However, I was asked not to start work until the Director approved the contract. So I waited.

Wednesday, I call. The Director had not yet given approval and was in a meeting. Worse still, they had just realized that they needed to get the document printed before the meeting … So could I not return the translation by Friday? No, was my reply. No sooner than Monday.

*grumble* *sigh* was the reaction.

Can I get started? I asked. No, we need to wait until the afternoon for the green light.

18:30 Wednesday, I call. Director still in meeting.

20:00 Wednesday, I receive an email asking me to be patient.

10:00 Thursday, I reply saying that with less than two working days remaining, it was no longer possible for me to meet my deadline and that in consequence I was withdrawing my offer.

10:03 Thursday, I receive a call telling me to start work.

Surprised, I asked, “Didn’t you receive my email?”

“What email? Ahh … oh … I see. But we were counting on you!”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t see why I should have to work through the weekend because you didn’t plan this better.”


She actually had the nerve to hang up on me!

Mr B, ever understanding, suggested the poor woman had been about to burst into tears.

Maybe so, but it was her own fault. The meeting must have been scheduled months before. There should have been a plan of what needed to be done by what date, and it should have been monitored. Instead each person in the chain let their delivery dates slip by, maybe just a few days here or a week there, but no one paid attention until they realized the meeting was fast approaching. And then they expect the final members of the chain to pull up all the slack and bring the schedule back on track?

I don’t think so.

I’m a professional. Treat me with some r.e.s.e.p.c.t. (sic)

Lack of planning