It must needs be a barren Profession to confine unto that of drawing of teeth- Sir Thomas Browne

Ambler, No. 29

Those brave souls who not only suffer through weeks of my muddled prose but also make their way to the end of each essay will notice that slight changes have taken place. Now, a change in a thing may seem slight to a man on the outside but be a much bigger deal to the man who has actively undergone the change. If, for example, a man is married, there is a very real sense in which his wife will request that he remove his mustache. Never mind that the wife may be unaware of the gravity of such a request; never mind the mustache sits atop the upper lip of the man with the same elegance and authority as a cat sitting atop a mantle, looking out upon those who are beneath him; never mind that the man who dawns a mustache is usually the funniest man in the room; never mind all these things, and mind for once the man who is chastised for dawning such an emblem of magisterial authority; mind the fact that when the man is asked, nay commanded, by his wife to discard his mustache, that it is like taking away the wizard’s staff or chopping the trunk off an elephant; mind that though we always do a double–if not triple–take at the man newly shaved of his mustache, that though those on the outside of the situation are certainly uncomfortable, they are not nearly as uncomfortable as the man without his mustache. For change, be it good or bad, is always felt the most from within.

As I was saying, the brave souls who actually read these ravings have more than likely noticed a significant change over the course of the last month; they have noticed that since “Ambler, No. 20 [On Townism]” a certain Adam the Scribe has graced his presence in this series of essays as my majestic trans-scribe.


A trans-scribe is a very handy thing to have. My faithful followers will know that perhaps nothing gets under my skin more than staring at a computer screen; thus, each of these Amblers has been written by hand with the inevitable problem of both having an audience and not putting my work online. Consequently, the horrendous task of trans-scribing my work took place each week. There may be no task under the sun so laborious and frustrating as the task of trans-scribing one’s own work. It inevitably happens when one trans-scribes his own writing that he inevitably chastises himself for writing such horrid thoughts in such a loquacious way and yet expects the reading public to accept it. In short, trans-scribing a man’s work makes you relatively intimate with that work, and a man should never be too attached to his own work.

That said, I was chewing the fat one day with a co-worker this past summer, and we lamented the terrible process of applying to American Ph.D. programs. That academics are arrogant may be best noted in the insane variety of application processes one finds at the institutions of indoctrination called universities. I for one am altogether too lazy to bother with the process to do it too many times over, and so to sum up, as I was mulling this over with my colleague, I decided on that fateful day that I desperately needed a secretary. There is too little praise given to secretaries in this country. They do work that many a woman can do but that no man will last ten minutes doing. I say, National Secretary Day should be a national holiday for secretaries, with a parade in their honor. If we took just one day of the year and had every secretary paraded through the towns like the queens they are, then we would know the true value of secretaries. Imagine bounding into the dentist’s office only to find to your horror that Dr. Molar is behind the desk attempting to answer the phone humanely and schedule an appointment on a schedule he cannot seem to place; imagine Dr. Crown scribling some furious note to the hygienist about how he has just received news that Johnny (poor Johnny is always picked on) is allergic to fluoride; imagine the hygienists, in this moment of peril, trying to make sense of the words and searching for Dr. Crown who has fled the scene and gone to the parade to beg that his secretary return before Dr. Molar gives Johnny Susie’s braces and puts Susie’s crown on Johnny.

As I was saying, the need for a secretary was great but it came with two problems. First, a secretary is usually a woman, and more importantly I have no means to pay a secretary, and really what I needed was a trans-scribe who could save me the trouble of writing these essays twice.


Now a good trans-scribe has many qualities. He must be both punctual and careful in his work. A man with a trans-scribe is always liable to being unfairly maligned and depicted, for a trans-scribe may easily misquote the author. But I have said it somewhere else, and I think it is true that our society needs more pointless jobs. Why just the other day I was told that the cameras atop the traffic lights were not taking pictures of men who neglected to stop but were instead directing the flow of traffic through some awful algorithm. Now we moan and complain about the lack of jobs in this country, and then we don’t do the sensible thing. We don’t tear down the cameras and replace them with men. How much more excitement would intersections accrue if instead of a silly camera directing traffic a man attempted it? If all our intersections had men running them, it may cause so much consternation that we would finally do away with the dreadful automobile once and for all.

In any case, I decided that I would advertise for a trans-scribe, and believe it or not someone responded to my call, and since then I have had to get a new trans-scribe but I bear no ill-will towards the last. Any man who undertakes such a job for me will forever be praised. For I am not sure I will ever be able to function again without a trans-scribe. And this reminds me that I was going to discuss the good qualities of a scribe.

Now, a good trans-scribe asks no questions about the content he is trans-scribing. A trans-scribe who quarrels with his boss about the nature of the content is over-stepping his boundaries. If he misquotes his boss, then I say the author has every right to compose scathing poems to the scribe as Chaucer did to his. No, a good trans-scribe will do the work like Bartleby, Mellville’s famous scrivener. He will come in and do the work without any qualms, only questioning whether a word is what it appears to be on the page. He can, of course, offer suggestions as to the choice of words or their arrangement, so that the author does not sound like a complete idiot in having chosen the wrong word. In my case, I hold there needs to be more men writing as the old days–by hand, and that old occupation of scribe work should reemerge from the ashes. There ought to be more Bartleby’s out there, though this comes with a catch. For if one has a scribe in the line of Bartleby, he should never request him to do something he prefers not to do and run the risk of that scribe preferring to not even scribe. He even runs the risk of that scribe making a home out of his desk, which in the case of my trans-scribe and his desk would make for an awfully small abode.

Sam Snow,
Written in The Catacombs,
Kansas State University,
October 12, 2014

Transcribed by Adam the Scribe II
In The Catacombs of KSU,
October 14, 2014

Painting: “The Scribe”
By George Cattermole,
Oil on Millboard, n.d.


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