I started off in the court reporting world as the lowest of the low…a reader! For those of you who have never taken live classes in court reporting school, the reader is the one who reads to you each day, ideally with a clear voice and at the right speed. Students don’t often tell the reader, “Nice job!” when you’re doing well, but you often hear, “You suck!” when you mess up. But I’ll get more into the reading experience in another post. Today is about one day in particular…one second in particular.
I was already a few months into the job, so I knew how things worked by this point. There was nothing exceptional about this particular day, good or bad. It was a just a day. I was fortunate enough to be reading 2-voice dictation with my sister, Jodi (a former court reporter). We worked well together. There were about 30 students in the class – all female. Yes, that matters to the story.
The Court Reporting Nightmare…
We were reading a witness ID – pretty general stuff. She read the questions – I read the answers.
Q – What color hair did she have?
A – Brown hair — kind of long.
Q – Do you remember what her shirt looked like?
A – Just a plain, white shirt.
You get the idea. We went back and forth like that for a long time, until…
Q – So how would you recognize her?
I was SUPPOSED to say, “From her clothes, her hair and her face.” Instead, I said,
A – From her clothes, her hair and her nipples.
Silence. Nobody moved or made a sound for about 10 seconds. I just said “nipples” in front of about 30 court reporting students – all women. Finally, my sister lost it. She started laughing, then the rest of the class joined in. It was too much for me and I walked out without making eye contact with anyone. I walked straight to the bathroom where I proceeded to repeat in my head, “Nipples?!”
After a couple minutes, my sister knocked on the door. I didn’t answer, but she came in anyway, trying to hold back a smile. “I still need you to read the test.” Was she nuts?! I told her I wasn’t going back, at least not today. “You’re a court reporting reader – your job is to read, not be perfect. Just do the best you can.” And this part I remember well, because I’ve heard it a million times since from students – I said, “But I’m reading (writing) like crap today.” And her response, “Get over it.” Well, there really wasn’t much I could say to that. She was my older sister and she would have beaten me up if I didn’t do what she said.
I walked back into that court reporting room and looked at all the faces…smiling faces. I just shook my head and said, “Nipples.” They laughed. Yeah, I did try to explain that I had no clue where it came from, but it really didn’t matter at that point. And I did read that test, and I did make mistakes, and no one died. Lesson learned 🙂
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