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Today's quote:

Thursday, March 25, 2021

The (articled) year my voice did not break

An excursion by the office staff to the head office in Hamburg.
'Yours truly' is at the far right in a shiny new suit and glasses.
Click on image to enlarge.


My biggest cock-up in life was to have allowed myself to be born to parents who were so dirt-poor that they packed me off to work as soon as I had reached the minimum school-leaving age of fourteen to become an articled clerk in an insurance company.

For three years, my fellow-articled clerks and I worked a six-day week, practically for nothing, while being force-fed on subjects such as accounting, commercial law, economics, business ethics, and more.

Being much older and better educated, they'd already gone through puberty, dealt with acne, and were shaving daily, while I was still a complete baby face who unsuccessfully tried to fill out his first shiny business suit and was yet to spend his first Deutschmark on razor blades.



At home I was known as "der Dünne" - "Skinny" - but at work I was already "Herr Görmann" and entrusted with more and more professional work despite the pittance I was paid as an indentured articled clerk. We were cheap labour, the price we paid to get our professional training.

My reference at the end of the gruelling three years mentions my 'way with words': "Viel Freude bereitete es ihm, den dazuhörigen Schrift-wechsel zu bearbeiten. Wir konnten ihm schon während der Lehrzeit gelegentlich auch schwierigeren Schriftwechsel übertragen." see Google

We were trained to dictate our correspondence, complete with full punctuation and spelling of particularly difficult words, to a typist who took it down in shorthand, or onto a tape with a GRUNDIG Stenorette.

All the typists knew my age, and were used to my prepubescent voice. Things became a bit more tricky when one client, in answer to one of my written 'masterpieces', called me on the phone. After a lengthy talk concerning his insurance claim, he followed it up with a letter which opened with the very embarrassing salutation, "Dear Miss Görmann ..."

I never lived this down with my fellow-articled clerks. I completed my articles and eventually found a new voice and new home in Australia.

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