Posted by: patenttranslator | July 22, 2011

In The Dog Days of Summer I Am Waiting To Be Paid

The temperature outside is near 100, but my air conditioning is humming along nicely and the vents are not noisy anymore since I changed the filters last week.

There is usually not much work in the dog days of summer,  perhaps because everybody is on vacation, that is everybody except for me this year, or perhaps because nobody wants to do much of anything in this heat. Even the cashiers at the supermarket say “Try to stay cool” when they hand me the change instead of “Have a nice day”. “Have a nice day” does not really mean what it says, just like “Itsumo o-sewa ni natte orimase” (thank you for your help as always) does not really mean anything in Japanese, it’s just something they say in respective cultures. “Bon apetit!” probably means what it says. It exists in just about every language, they say “Smacznego!” in Polish, and “Itadakimasu”, which literally means “We are humbly receiving” in Japanese, but they don’t seem to have an equivalent idiom in English. Although some people say grace, and some people say “So let’s dig in”.

I had to worry about two invoices this month in these hot days (hotdog days?) of summer in Virginia. One was for a translation job for a one-man agency that always takes a long time to pay, about fifteen hundred dollars, the other one was for a long translation job for a patent lawyer, almost six thousand dollars.

I worried more about the smaller amount because this guy always paid late this year, which must mean that he has a major cash flow problem. So far he always paid, really late, but there is a first time for everything. In my “Fourth Past-Due Notice Reminder” after about 80 days from the date of the invoice, (I always number my reminders), I gave him a choice. I said in my e-mail: “Please send the check by Federal Express, or as an alternative, you can use PayPal by clicking on the PayPal icon on my website”. When I came back from the supermarket with the clerks who warn people to remember not to die from exposure to heat, the money was in my account. Just like I thought, the story that he was telling me about a check that was mailed a long time ago was baloney. He never sent any check because he did not have the money, but he figured that he would have enough money to pay the bill by the time the credit card bill was due. I must remember to use this method in the future. It may work with other people too. But if this guy wants me to work for him again, he will have to prepay next time by clicking on the helpful PayPal icon on my website. He will probably try to find another translator. Oh, well, somebody else will have to wait three months to get paid.

I did not worry that much about the payment from the lawyer because I never got stiffed so far by a patent lawyer in 24 years, at least not entirely, although I did get shortchanged a couple of times. Once a lawyer insisted on a rebate because I translated “characterisiert dadurch dass” as “wherein”. He thought it was extremely unprofessional of me not to translate it as “characterized in that”. This was after another patent lawyer advised me to always translate “characterisiert dadurch dass” as “wherein”, because that’s what it means in patent law and he thought it was extremely unprofessional of me to translate it literally. So I had to agree to a discount, but I never worked for this guy again. Actually, he never asked me again because I was clearly extremely unprofessional, but had he asked, I would not work for him. So after much thought and deliberation, I decided to use “characterized in that” from now on unless I am told otherwise. I am paid by the word and when you have 29 claims in a patent, the words add up. It would be better if I could translate it as  c h a r a c t e r i z e d  i n  t h a t, which is counted as 19 words instead of 3, since that is how they write it in German, but that would be too transparent.

I only had to send one past-due invoice reminder to this lawyer who was a new customer. He e-mailed me back the same day that he was on vacation and that he would take care of the bill as soon as he got back from it next week. He also said that he thought he had mailed the check already before going on vacation. Now, that was baloney too. Most people remember something like that, except maybe when they are Bill Gates or Warren Buffet.

But it does not matter because when I got back from the supermarket with the cashiers who warn people to remember to try to stay cool, the check was indeed in my mailbox. It was only ten days late.

All things considered, it was a pretty productive day today in the life of this mad patent translator, although all I was doing all day long was reading “The Spire” by Richard North Patterson, watching a little teevee, waiting to be paid and trying to stay cool in the dog days of summer.

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