September 11, 2022

What I Do

No, it’s not what you’re thinking. Not “what did I do?” I didn’t do anything (in the sense of what did I do?). This is about what my duties are, daily, weekly, monthly—all the time. Because I’ve had several inquiries about my role, and they keep coming. So let me make it clear.

I’m the Catalogue Master. You see, there, under my description. It began a long time back, more than 40 years ago in real time (remember, the events in Everything Is Jake happened some time back, not in the present day). My first role with PBDS began before TR was even a teenager, I think. I made $2.50 an hour (see p. 106). Can you imagine that? It wasn’t a full-time salary or anything. When I first took on the Catalogue, I was working maybe 10 hours a week, so that’s $25 a week, good money back then. (Yes, I make a lot more now. Now it’s a much bigger, full-time job.) One way it’s bigger is I’m the equivalent of the office manager. I hold it together. I oversee payroll, accounting, stuff like that. We’ve got people, mostly freelancers, all over. We’ve got software and hardware to maintain, open accounts, people traveling, supplies, licenses, other things—boring office stuff you don’t want to know about. I’m also the shoulder to cry on. We’re not dealing with your typical nine-to-fivers, you know. Our folks are a special breed. They’ve got problems at all times, day or night.

But the central assignment is the Catalogue. In the early days, I took on the task of growing it. The Catalogue. That’s the heart of our data business. We collect connections between people. As many as we can find, and all from word of mouth to our gang of freelancers and also from public records. See pp. 109-110 for the early days. It’s not as easy as it sounds, not by a long shot. Just think of the people you know. Imagine starting a file on each person you know: name, address, phone numbers, date of birth or guess about age, significant others, parents, children,  plus other stuff you happen to know about them (or later, things you come to know about them). Then comes the hard part: you put in why they each have a file: Went to school with TR, works with Khaki’s father, shows at the gym Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays, best friend of your cousin in Baton Rouge, dabbles in real estate, hosts a podcast, designs jewelry, never missed an episode of “Friends,” you know, whatever you know about them goes into the file. Now, it’s not that I have to write all that; we’ve got lots of people supplying us with data, but I oversee it and have to make sure it’s properly coded and entered in the system. And test it.

And there’s the much bigger task, which is the electronic collection of people data. Let’s say Company X markets life-guard training services and puts a list of all its certified trainers on line. If we come across it, we copy it for our system. It might say that one of its trainers has trained students and staff at a high school in Duluth. (I’m just making up this example. As you can imagine, our real data is a very closely held secret.) And suppose we get a case involving a swimming accident somewhere on Lake Superior. (Okay, yes, I know, it’s a big lake.) But you see where this is going. We can quickly search our Catalogue to see whether we know anyone connected to the high school, who can check in with a trainer at X, who might have trained the lifeguard on duty. We can do this fast. Five minutes after we get a call about the situation, we can be on the phone with someone on the scene or someone who’s connected to someone on scene. Multiply that by thousands of data bases (I’m low-balling it; I’m not going to say how many)—college fraternity members, sales people for the eggplant crop across the country, and so on and so forth. (I’m making up all these examples, of course.) And then there are the keywords. That’s completely proprietary; most of it is generated these days by sophisticated AI. All in all, we’re closing in on a billion records, and the cross connections are orders of magnitude larger (maybe the trainer at X was in a fraternity at Campus Y, which means we can probably connect to a fellow fraternity member, Z, who was on campus when the trainer was, and is dating the best friend of the victim’s mother). It’s all legal. We use only what’s publicly available or with permission of the information holder. It gets us to people fast. It’s also expensive to maintain and grow. I oversee the Catalogue staff, a lot of them. Our full-time Washington people have an open credit line at Gentlemen’s Meats. Our part-time staff and freelancers have expense accounts.

We didn’t get to where we are without a big investment and a lot of work.

And just to stop the flow of messages from all those fans who don’t seem to have anything better to do: No, I’m not remarried. Yes, it’s true I went with Dewey Sisal to Khaki’s New Year’s Eve party last January. So what? Doesn’t imply anything. My granddaughter is now in college. You’re not going to run into me at the movies because I don’t go to movies. You do? I did not see Back to the Future 3 and have no plans to, so I don’t get the reference. For your information, I have lots of friends (and yes, they’re in the Catalogue; in fact, so are you, under “pesky correspondent”). No, I have never dated Formerly Mumford. What are you thinking? He’s a kid—a good kid, and a smart agent, but hey, he’s 20 years my junior, at least. I think. I could check the HR files, but I’m not going to go public with it. Plus we don’t date co-workers. No, that picture at the top is not of me., nor does it look like me. It’s meant to hint at my workaday mood.  I guess it’s safe to say I belong to a quilting club. Is there some meaning to posting on 9/11? It seems like every day is 9/11 around here. Metaphorically. Where was I on 9/11? Right here, in Washington. Is that significant? It’s where I live, for heaven’s sake. No, I’m not going to prove it to you. And yes, I can get a message to TR. We’re connected. — oJT

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