Wednesday, October 20, 2004

My Work

I work part-time at a place in Belmont writing reports on other people who fake illness or injury because they don't want to work.

The fundamental strangeness of my job hasn't come home to me yet. There are five other report writers there - some part-time, some full-time - and maybe one of the ways in which we protect ourselves from guilt is by not thinking too much about the job that we do. Quite simply, to do the job properly we must be prepared to intrude quite significantly on other people's lives.
We work with video and investigators reports. The investigators are instructed by insurance companies, lawyers, or businesses, to take out surveillance on certain people. They then go round to those people's houses, or somewhere else where they can be sure to get good footage of 'The Claimant', and capture minute details about the persons movement, demeanour, etc, on tape. It's usually very hard to tell for sure whether they are faking injury, or whether they really do need workers compensation. So we are required to be inherently suspicious.
The reports we write are monotonous - deliberately so. Phrases like,

'The Claimant moved his head to either side'
'The Claimant repeatedly tapped her chest with her left hand'
'There was no activity.'

Are common.
The office atmosphere is almost clinical. Most of the people are friendly and open, and the boss is generous, but it's as if we have to maintain the detached nature of our work in our personal relationships. Somehow I can't see this sort of work leading to any romance. Imagine the come-on lines:

'I love the way you move the little finger of your left hand repeatedly through your hair while tilting your head several times up and down.'

I mean, it just doesn't do it for me!

I made a bad joke at work yesterday. We were talking about bipolar disorder - presumably someone was claiming that as the illness. There was some banter about the nature of bipolar disorder - what was it? It sounded to me like schizophrenia. B., from the desk behind me, said, 'No, it's more like manic depression.'

'I want it!' I said. 'I want bipolar disorder!'
J., the editor, from the desk next to mine, said quietly, 'No you don't.'
Not hearing this, I went on: 'I want it. I want it all! I want the crazy highs! The devastating lows! The awful in-betweens!'
J. says, 'Shut up, Tim.'
Which was enough to stop me from going on.

Well, it was a bad joke. But I was also part serious. I'm very curious about mental disorder, to the extent that I wonder what it is like to experience these things. No, I don't really want to wish pain on myself, or anyone else. But to actively wish for that sort of illness - is it any worse than to passively sit and take out reports on people who fake 1illness for reasons of their own?

Maybe one of these days I'll have an ethical crisis with this job, similar to the ethical crisis I had when I decided I just had to get work. For the moment, I'm just happy to sit back, do work, and let the money come in.


Chas said...

Examples of manic-depression (bipolar 1 disorder, bipolar 2 is not as severe. Could be the other way around.):

- during a manic phase, one guy decided that he had the power of God and could drink Drain-O. He proceeded to prove to his mother that he could. Result: Hospital visit. (Interesting fact, he survived the drinking of the drain-O
- same guy, during a depressed phase stabbed his mother. Result: Hospital visit for mother and presumably another institution for guy.
- different guy, in manic, decides that he will quit his job and sell all worldly possessions, including the house he and his wife lived in, to finance his new venture: A device that allows gold fish to live forever. Result: Gold fish did not achieve immortality, man and wife get divorce, bankrupcy.

These are extreme examples of manic-depression, but even the less acute versions can be disruptive. I generally go up and down (as do we all), but I have had doses of extremes either way, and they aint fun. Well, the manic can be fun sometimes, especially when you are convinced you ACTUALLY have figured out how to save/take over the world. But when you come down again, that kind of behaviour can be quite embarrassing. Which is depressing. Which lasts for a while before you figure out how to get out of the rut you are in, get excited and so on. Trust me, it is much more fun when you are in control of yourself.

There is an easy way to get a mental disorder, though. Drug abuse. Works everytime.

Gempires said...

Maybe your editor is bipolar.

TimT said...

Chas - point taken. I really don't wish it on anyone, and certainly not myself.

Gem - I've always had a bit of a split personality myself - ie, the normal me that says dumb things, then the sensible me that realises what I've just said and regrets it.
I did wonder the same thing myself, though, about whether J. is bipolar.

Email: timhtrain - at -

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