So Thursday was my first day back “on the job.” Naturally, I was up late the night before having a mild stress attack. After all, it had been over a year since I last reported a deposition proceedings, and now here I was diving headfirst into an assignment with only one day’s notice.¹
I had to first find appropriate clothing…no small feat, I assure you. I have spent the last two years in sweat pants and jeans…happily, mind you. Once I found something decent, I had to wash it to get rid of the mothball smell. You think I’m kidding.
Then I had to deal with The Equipment. It is astonishing how much crap it takes to convert spoken words into written words…and they usually want us to take down all of the words. Sheesh.
So I had to reset the date and time on my stenomachine, which had been collecting dust on top of my desk; find and double-check my storage cards (which I had been using for photos); recharge the battery and back-up battery; check the batteries for the mics; locate my realtime cables (which I found in the baby’s closet); remind myself how to use my software…you get the idea. The list is insane.
Not surprisingly, it wasn’t until 2:30 a.m. that I finally got around to actually writing on my steno machine, freaking out that I might get some heavily-accented doctor witness or something similarly horrible after being off the machine for so long.
So I sat down, took a huge, weary, caffeine-vibratoed breath, adjusted the height of the machine, placed my fingers on the keys, and started practicing with some dictation videos I found on YouTube. As my fingers started to warm up and fall into familiar cadence, I looked up at my bulletin board and saw my court reporter’s license hanging there.
That’s when I realized I would be fine. I am a certified court reporter, I reminded myself, licensed by this fair State of California.² I have been plying this trade for 14 years. I have reported kidnapping cases with emotional witnesses. I have reported civil cases with cocaine-propulsioned attorneys in final argument. I have passed the 240-wpm leg of a national certification test (just need to pass the 260!). What’s one weenie little ol’ deposition to me? I had this. I knew what I was doing. We’re talking about me here, Miss Handling-My-Business.
Bring. It. On.
So how’d the job go? I’m glad you asked™.³
When the witness walked in, the first thing he did was chew out opposing counsel for his choice of venue before plopping down into his chair with a glare. Off to a good start.
Not only was he angry (angry people talk fast!), he had an accent, and yes, he was a doctor…even better, a specialist. Can you say “biventricular defibrillator device” five times fast? No, me neither. But the witness could…and did…repeatedly.
How did I do? Great! It wasn’t a perfect job, but I handled my business. No stuck gears, the fingers knew what to do, it was on. Da-da-da-dah! Neptune forgive me, but I had fun. They probably thought I was goofy, sitting there so happy to be back in the midst of things, but I was enjoying myself. My job is very much like being a fly on the wall, only I get to sit at the head of the table. 🙂
In the past, I would have griped and complained and stressed and worried. This day, not so much. That’s because I went in there knowing that whatever was thrown my way, I was going to handle it like the professional I am.
And I did.
What’s the point of all of this? Confidence, man. You’ve got to have the confidence. And if you don’t, you gotta look inside and squeeze it up from your guts somehow. This applies to all human endeavors, it seems to me…especially writing.
Despite what you see in movies like “Wonder Boys,” Robert Downey, Jr., is not going to come knocking on your door (dammit!) wondering when your novel is going to be done. No one’s going to come and pick you up off the floor, sit you back up in front of your computer, and feed your ego until you feel like you can do it. No such thing…at least, not this far south of the NY Times Bestselling List. (Man, I can’t wait until I’m on the other side, and they have to send some poor, overworked publishing assistant to “handle” me. Won’t that be fun?)
So right now I am working on a science fiction Japanese noir piece that is apparently Part 1 of a 5-novella series, and it’s been kicking my ass for the past five months. Seriously. This thing has grown roots and is trying to suck water from the wood of my desk. Every month I tell myself — and my fellow Third Ninjas Omniscient — that I will be bringing it to the next writer’s meeting, and every month, I bring something else.
This month will be no different as tomorrow is our next meeting. I’ve got until this afternoon before I shut down all word-manufacturing operations for several hours while I go to Chinatown and witness the funky awesomeness that is Pirate Bubblegum. That means I’ve got to write a new story sometime between now and high noon tomorrow.
But I ain’t skeered. See, I’ve been writing stories since I was 7 years old, longer than I’ve been a court reporter, that’s for sure. I may not be licensed to write short stories by the State of California, but when it comes down to it, I know ain’t nobody who can write my stories better than me. Ain’t nobody knows where my characters have been and where they’s going and what the hell they’re up to.
I have produced some of my finest work under tighter deadlines. I can do this. So I’m strapping on my gun holster belt (with the cute little Bedazzles on the side), checking the safety on my ivory-inlaid water pistol, and making sure my panty line isn’t showing above my faux-leather chaps. Oh, and I’ve made some tea.
So, Future Fabulous Short Story That Has Yet To Be Written, choose your weapon, be it tantalizing clichés, bringing up failed stories, or introducing characters who have no business on the set. Bring. It. On. Ten paces at high noon. You are about to be schooled by a professional. And when I’m done wiping up this town with you, I’m gonna take down your buddy, Mr. Scifi Miyagi Noir. This desk just ain’t big enough for the three of us. You suckers are going down.
¹ My Native American name should be “Trial By Fire,” or “Jumps Outside Pan into Flames,” or “Flies Headlong Off Cliff Repeatedly.” Maybe “Bursts Suddenly Into Flames.” I like that one.
² For those who aren’t familiar, to work as a court reporter in California, you have to be certified at 200 words per minute. But court reporters know you need to be faster than that if you want to keep up. Los Angeles Superior Court administers their own test at 225 wpm.
³ “I’m glad you asked,” is a trademarked catch-phrase (not really) licensed by Danny “Arrr!” Medina, and therefore attributed thereto. I owe you $.25 in licensing fees, Danny. 😉
P.S. You guys nuclear-blasted my best-day stats yesterday, dethroning my previous busiest day, which was way back in January 2010. Thank you! You guys rock!