A Day in the Life of… Michelle Hof

Welcome back! This month’s #ADayInTheLifeof features friend and colleague Michelle. This month, we jump into a high-profile interpreter’s life – that’s why it spans over a WEEK! Find Michelle on Twitter or check her blog here.

First of all, thanks Valeria for the valuable little peek behind the scenes you’re giving us with #ADayInTheLifeOf series! And thanks for promptly invitingme to do some sharing of my own.

MONDAY – A typical day at home

7:00 – Crawl out of bed, get the kids up, eat breakfast (which means café con leche, no solid food this early in the morning, please!) and head out the door.

8:30 – Drop the kids off at school, grab a croissant and another coffee, then head up the road to campus to hole myself up for a while in the university library. This morning’s project: flesh out some of the modules of a professional development course I am working on. I have a lot of work ahead of me, and the deadline is looming, so I had better get down to it. It’s mostly right-brain work, so I need to use my most productive morning hours for it.

13:30 – Look up from my laptop and realize I haven’t moved since breakfast. Head downstairs to grab a quick bite at the university canteen. While shoveling in the day’s special (arroz a la cubana, which counts as vegetarian if you ask them to leave off the sausage), I catch up on my Twitter timeline from my phone, call the secretary at AIB about a team we’re putting together for a job in Italy, and approve a few new blog comments.

14:00 – Back upstairs to the library. Right brain is brain-dead, so time to switch hemispheres. This afternoon’s project: Finish revising an academic paper for one of my university clients. The closet perfectionist in me is in for a real treat today, as I get to spend the next two hours dealing with comma splices and rearranging subordinate clauses to my heart’s content.

16:15 – Whoops, time got away on me again. A quick cortado and off to pick up the kids.

20:30 – After basketball, ballet, swim, supper, teeth, books, it’s the kids’ bedtime. Have used time in the car (as a passenger, obviously, not the driver) between all these things to reply to a few emails and tweet the day’s news. There is a post of mine due to come out in the AIIC blog this week and while most of the details were wrapped up last week, it still needs finalizing, so I have squeezed that in from the passenger’s seat, too.

21:30 – Guilty pleasure time: I am an addicted to The Mentalist and it’s on La Sexta tonight. Good night!

TUESDAY – A day on the road

7:00 – Alarm, kids, coffee, school.

8:15 – Today’s a travel day. Good news: the airport is near my kids’ school. Not so good news: we only have one car (a soccer-mom Dacia minivan owned by the bank), so I have to get dropped off at 8:15 for an 11:15 flight. Oh, well… Once I’ve arrived at the airport, I step into what I call my “travel bubble”, sit down for a second coffee at the airport café, pull out my laptop, and get to work. No free wifi, but my phone can act as a tether in a pinch. To do today: write up the month’s invoices, sketch out some interpreting class activities, contact those interpreters in Italy about that option, and prepare tomorrow’s interpreting assignment.

11:15 – Hello, Iberia! Keep working away at that to-do list at 30,000 feet.

15:00 – Back on terra firma and it’s time for some more waiting. Iberia, in all its downsizing wisdom, has decided to cut several flights between Madrid and my destination, leaving me with a six-hour layover in Barajas Terminal 4. Oh, well, at least their workers are not on strike this week! Lunch is some overpriced food in an airport café. Happy to report that the travel bubble remains intact and I am still feeling zen.

In between flights, I finish reviewing the documents for tomorrow’s meeting. It’s a regular client, so I know their business pretty much inside out, but still need to prepare. I also make a few more calls to the AIB secretary about Italy, BBM with my better half and send some silly emoticons to my kids as they head to music lessons.

21:45 – Board my final flight for the day. Too tired to do any more work, so I read El País while in the air. Realize I had breakfast, lunch and dinner in an airport today. Yum!

23:00 – Finally arrive at my hotel. It’s basic but acceptable, and to be honest, at this hour I am hardly in a condition to notice how many stars it has over the door. Collapse into bed. Big work day tomorrow.

WEDNESDAY – A day in the booth

7:00 – Early start today. The client has asked us to be on site for a briefing at 8:00 am, so I grab a quick coffee, hop into a cab with a couple of colleagues, and off we go to work.

8:00 – Arrive at our client’s office for the pre-meeting briefing. Sort out the booth logistics and day’s schedule and compare documents with the client to make sure we’ve got the most recent version. There’s just enough time for another coffee and a bit of breakfast between the briefing and the meeting’s start.

9:30 – Into the booth we go!

13:00 – Time for lunch. The office canteen does a nice veggie pizza, so that’s what I’m going for today.

14:30 – Back into the booth. There’s been plenty of German to keep me busy today, so I am happy. I get stuck for a second on einstweilige Verfügung, and am kicking myself because it’s an in-house term I hear all the time, but I come up with a decent solution just in time. I blame the lapse on the postprandial effect and move on.

18:00 – Back at the hotel. A quick Skype chat with the kids and then I spend a while surfing the hotel news channels while I check my Twitter feed.

20:30 – Off to have dinner with a good friend of mine who lives in town. I’m feeling tired after a long day and wishing we could have arranged to meet earlier, but restaurants don’t open before 20:30 in this part of Spain! Still, I am looking forward to some tapas and a good chinwag…

THURSDAY – Interpreting day 2

8:00 – Out of bed, coffee, taxi.

8:45 – Grab a second coffee and some breakfast before disappearing back into the booth.

13:00 – What a nice surprise: they have got through their agenda early and have given us the afternoon off! Quick, what is the most useful thing I can do with the unexpected free time? Get a haircut, of course! A quick WhatsApp exchange with a friend who knows every salon in town and I am off to get coiffed.

17:00 Back at the hotel and sporting my new “do”, I see I have some time before a Webex conference scheduled for later tonight, so I decide to tackle that to-do list. I do some online banking, catch up on my tweeting, read some blog posts (too brain-dead to draft a post for my own blog), and answer some emails. I even venture onto Facebook for one of my rare visits to that increasingly bewildering land of cat videos and clever memes. Got the hotel TV on in the background, listening with one ear to the headlines. BBM with the better half and get the day’s news from the kids.

20:30 – Run out to grab a falafel before I hit Webex.

21:00 – Tune in for a teleconference with AIIC’s Social Media team. Nice to see so many familiar faces, if only virtually. The team members are based all over the world, so there are many I have never met in person. Still, I feel like I know them well, as we are in constant virtual contact.

FRIDAY – On the road again

8:00 – Feeling a bit TGIF as I pull myself out of bed for a third day in the booth. Looking forward to the flight back to Tenerife later, even though I won’t make it home until the kids are in bed. The agenda for today’s meeting shows it will be the toughest of the three, so no chance of an easy ride today.

9:00 – Into the booth again. Sigh as I look at the agenda. Very glad I am spending this week with a trusted team from AIB. It makes life so much easier – especially on the tough days – when you know your colleagues well and have a familiar routine to follow.

13:00 – Lunch at the office canteen. Will try the veggie special today.

14:30 – Final stretch in the booth. Things heat up a bit in the meeting, with delegates disagreeing on a key point. I appreciate the resulting adrenaline rush, since there’s no better way to stay alert during the dreaded after-lunch shift (and did I mention it was Friday?).

16:30 – Meeting over! My work here is done. Rush off to the airport in the hope I will have time to swing by the gift shop before boarding (this is one of the few airports I frequent with a well-stocked section of kids’ books in English).

17:45 – Hello, Iberia! I’ve managed to pick up the books for my kids, as well as an Economist and a Scientific American for me. I settle back into my travel bubble for the trip home.

22:00 – Five hours, two flights, and a mad dash in T4 later, the taxi drops me off at my doorstep. The kids are in bed, as I expected, but at least their dad has stayed up to welcome me home. Let the weekend begin!


THIS WILL GIVE YOU ENOUGH FOOD FOR THOUGHTS! And don’t misi my #ITIConf13 talk tomorrow, Saturday, at 15.15 – join me for more interpreting stories – all-but-serious and with a funny twist!

– V.

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