I came across this text a while ago when a colleague shared it on his Facebook page. This brilliant analogy on how some customers treat translators was originally written by a translator named Gary Smith.
“Can you repair my car? I need it for tomorrow.”
“Can I see it?”
“No. Not until you tell me if you can fix it.”
“Um…What kind of car is it?”
“A blue one.”
“I mean the manufacturer and model.”
“That’s personal information I don’t want to disclose. When will it be ready?”
“Well…what noises has it been making? How old? Mileage?”
“Questions, questions! Am I supposed to tell you how to do your job? Just tell me how long it’ll take to fix it. Oh, and I can only afford €X. And I want you to use these complicated, old, rusty tools of mine. I’ve also started to tinker with the car myself, so you should give me a discount now you only have to finish off the job. And fix that leak I made while tinkering. Here’s a blurry photo of it to help.”
“Hmm…It looks like a Trabant from the Soviet bloc period. Do you have the manufacturer’s manual to give me a general idea?
“Yes, here you are.”
“This manual is for a Mini.”
“Mini, Trabant…they’re both cars, right? Anyway, it doesn’t matter because I want it to be a Rolls Royce when you’ve finished. A red one. I know a mechanic down the street who says he can do that for five euros in half an hour. I’d do it myself but I don’t have the time; I can drive, so I know a lot about cars.”
“Actually, they don’t make these car parts anymore. Maybe I can send for them from Cuba.”
“Whatever. Just make sure it’s ready tomorrow so my cousin can take it for a test drive with his myopia and arthritis after a few drinks in the pub. If he’s satisfied with the drive, we may have more jobs for you in the next decade. By the way, in order to pay you, I’ll need a complete list and sworn, stamped copies of all your diplomas, training courses and previous employers with their addresses, phone numbers and blood groups. Just send them by express post to our head office in Bhutan before tomorrow. Bye, then. See you next year—er, I mean tomorrow…though I might call you today every five minutes to see how you’re doing, tell you how to do your job and maybe just whine and send someone to poke you with a stick occasionally to encourage you with such managerial skills, as this will surely help you work faster and better. I might also change my requests and give you additional little jobs like changing the tyres, fitting a new radio etc. once you’ve started. At no extra cost. What do you mean, ‘no’? How unprofessional of you to refuse work. Somebody will take it…”