Thursday, July 20, 2017

Remembering FEMA's Creative Writing Department of 2004-05 as I prepared to retire.

2004 was a very bad year for me. I had totally burned-out as a computer programmer-analyst (PA) after working 20 years in that chosen profession in Portland, Oregon. Back in 1969-70 I had spent 69 weeks at night in Western Business University. My class started with 24 men. Six of us graduated. My diploma said 'With Honors.' I was very happy. I found a good job immediately.

At my last job in 1988 I was being paid very well. I was not happy with the company, though. I was making $35,000 a year. Very good money back then.

A head-hunter that I had contacted to try to find me a new job with another company told me: “They have golden handcuffs around your wrists. You must be very good.” PA's were being paid $32,000 a year.

After I left programming, all my jobs were shitty, low-wage jobs. Common in capitalist USA.

I sold off all my first editions of mystery books by Lawrence Block at Powell's City Of Books, and bought a one way Greyhound ticket to Orlando Florida. I hated Miami. I did not want to live there.

In my last job before retirement I was being paid minimum wage as an Administrative Assistant in a Hispanic non-profit company.

Then came the Year of the Five Hurricanes in Florida. One very nice lady at the non-profit told me that FEMA was looking for translators of documents, mostly press releases, but including other documents as well.

I applied at FEMA, and got the job. I went from $5.25 an hour to $17.00 an hour. I was very happy again.

We were working 12 hours a day shifts, seven days a week. I made $25,000 in five months. I saved 90%, for retirement.

Translating the documents from English to Spanish was very easy for me. I am fluent in both languages.

The group of English to Spanish translators at FEMA was very small. We were not part of any department. The Americans who wrote the press releases in English were part of the Creative Writing Department.

Creative Writing consisted of telling LIES in the press releases. The information given about the Emergency Centers were not lies. It was based on truths.

When a FEMA Emergency Center Office was opened in Florida, it was accompanied by a Press Release. Sent to the local press.

It had the address of the center, the hours, the emergency assistance programs, all of them truths.

The Press Releases would always include quotations from government officials. They were invented by the creative writers. All of them were lies, invented by us. At the end of my job, I had been transferred to the Creative Writing Department.

Now you know the Rest of the Story.

So now, when I see a quotation from a government official in a newspaper, I ask myself, is it Creative Writing?

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