Saturday, September 10, 2016

Queens County Revisited: The 1970's (73)

It turned out that the "dictaphone-typist" job involved sitting in an office room with other dictaphone-typists, mostly African-American women in their late 30's or early 40's, who were all part of a dictaphone-typist pool, then-supervised by a white Irish-American woman who appeared to be in her 50's. The dictaphone-typists transcribed the dictaphone-tapes of "bail" or "no-bail" recommendations and sentencing recommendations that the then-all-white male probation officers made to various Criminal Court judges.

Most of my workday as part of the dictaphone-typist pool involved listening to the dictaphone tapes while transcribing/typing the words of the probation officer on forms or blank white sheets of paper, like the other dictaphone-typists did. Unlike the other workers in the dictaphone-typist pool, however, part of my job also was to, like an inter-office messenger, deliver by hand the manila envelopes which contained the transcribed probation officers' reports and recommendations to the offices of the various New York Criminal Court judges in both the 100 Centre Street courthouse or nearby federal courthouse building. Because there were apparently not enough offices in the 100 Centre Street courthouse to house the number of judges used by Manhattan's Criminal Court system, some of the court system judges were apparently assigned office space inside the nearby Federal Court building.

I did not mind being assigned the additional work task of delivering the manila envelops by hand to the offices of the various judges, after being accompanied and shown where their offices were during my first week on the job by an African-American woman file clerk, who appeared to about the same age as me; and who seemed glad that the inter-office messenger work she had previously been assigned to do would now be done by me.  Unlike the file clerk,  I did not feel it was an extra burden to have to do the hand-delivery work, since I felt it gave me a good excuse to decrease, somewhat, the time I was chained to a dictaphone-typist pool office desk, by taking as long a time as I could to do the delivery work; and it also provided me with more work breaks from sitting all day, listening to tapes on a headphone, transcribing text, and typing text that I normally might have had, had I not been assigned to also do the messenger work.

I no longer remember much of what the recommendations from the court probation officers that I transcribed were nor much about the file clerk who showed me where the judges' offices were in the courthouses. What I do remember about the file clerk was that the file clerk was the kind of very religious church member who seemed to believe that the main purpose of life on earth was to work during the week, go to church every Sunday, center your non-work life around all the evening and weekend activities that the church you belonged to sponsored, and prepare yourself to be rewarded for your belief in and devotion to Jesus Christ and God during your life, with an eternal after-life in a heavenly paradise after you died; and that your eternal after-life in the heavenly paradise would make up for any of the feelings of enslavement, economic hardship or boredom that you might have had during your daily life on earth, prior to your earthly death. So when the file clerk asked me if I believed in Christ and I indicated that I didn't, she, naturally, seemed to give me a look of pity, because she believed that I would then be ineligible to enjoy an eternal after-life in heaven as she would enjoy, after my earthly death.

All I can remember now about the white middle-class male probation officers was that they rarely spoke to the dictaphone-typists who transcribed their recommendations and reports when they came down to the dictaphone-typing pool room to hand them to the white woman supervisor who, subsequently, assigned one of the dictaphone-typists to do a particular transcription.

By the 21st-century, I imagine the dictaphone-typist pool would likely have been eliminated and the probation officers were probably now likely being required to type-up their own reports and recommendations for the judges on their desk computers or laptop computers, using windows; and all the dictaphone-typist/transcribing jobs that were provided for previous generation of workers at the 100 Centre Street courthouse would likely have vanished by now, I suspect.