I tend to work a lot of secondary educational assignments. I am really uncomfortable with one of my clients. This person always asks me for a ride home. What should I do?
-No Ride-Share in Redlands
Dear No Ride Share,
That happened to me when I was a newbie interpreter. Unsure, I agreed to give a college student client a ride home once. I knew the student from past assignments and thought “No biggie, right?” Then the student began asking for rides home after each class AND if I could pick them up before classes too! Geez, give someone an inch and they take a mile!! At that point I knew it was time to say “No.” I contacted the college’s interpreter coordinator and told her about the situation. I was informed it was against school policy for interpreters to be giving rides to students anyway. Perfect! That was an easy out for me. Looking back, I wish I would have had the guts to say no from the beginning.
The most direct way is to say, “Sorry, I can’t.” That’s it. You do not owe them an explanation or reason why. If the student persists in asking, then you may have to be more direct and explain that you do not give rides to clients/students. Period. Beyond that, contact your supervisor if the student takes it further.
As professionals we have to be able to say no when necessary and not feel bad about it. Trust me, you’ll have to say “no” in much tougher situations than this. Consider this practice.
I was interpreting at a medical appointment with a male client. We followed the nurse into the examining room and after she took the patient’s vitals, she left the room and closed the door leaving me alone with the client, (someone I just met 15 minutes ago!). I felt very uncomfortable just sitting alone with this guy waiting for the doctor. I do a lot of medical assignments and never quite sure what to do in these awkward situations. Any suggestions?
-Feeling Awkward in Anaheim
Dear Awkward in Anaheim,
If you’re single and looking for a date, go for it! What better way to meet people than getting up close and personal and getting paid at the same time?! JOKING!! JOKING!! It’s not a good idea to wait in the room alone with a client in these situations. I’m always surprised at how many interpreters do wait alone with clients in private exam rooms. There’s no interpreting going on, so why are we there? It sends the wrong message to the medical staff about who we are and what we do. It also leaves us vulnerable to potential problems. Simply wait nearby in the hallway so that you can enter when the doctor goes in. As the nurse leaves, just follow them out and say “I’m going to step out into the hallway until the doctor comes in.” or “I need to check in with my agency while we wait, I’ll be right here in the hallway.” And puh-lease, don’t ask the client, “Do you want me to stay or wait outside?” That puts the client under pressure and may say it’s ok to stay even when they really don’t want you to. Let the client have their privacy, standby, and be ready to do your job when interpreting is needed.
Now you say, “But what about those clients that I do know and they want me to stay and chat while we wait??” When that happens, I still try and duck out or at the very least leave the door open.
Besides the privacy issue, it’s a safety issue. Protect yourself and your client. You never know what someone could say or do behind closed doors.