Monday, December 15, 2008

Not Them Again!

As a freelance court reporter, you run all over God's little acre for depositions. Doctors' offices, attorneys' offices, places of business, wherever you're needed. Commuting is sometimes a bit of a pain, but the variety keeps things interesting. As time wears on, the docs' and attorneys' faces become familiar, and eventually you can semi-predict how a job is going to go just by the people present.

Over the past five or six weeks, I've had a flurry of activity from one firm in particular. Until today, not one deposition with this firm has gone off without a hitch. Out of six jobs scheduled, three cancelled me after I'd already driven into the city, committed to horrendous parking fees, and trudged to their office from the parking garage.

A fourth job was a wild goose chase. I show up at the firm and they tell me the depo is at an office down the street. She gives me the address and suite number. I drag my stuff over there, go to the suite in question, and I'm greeted by a friendly attorney who knows nothing of what I'm talking about. Drat. My cell phone is dead and I can't call the firm to double check anything. Friendly Attorney suggests the doc's office down the hall as a possible location. Friendly is new to the building, and believes he now occupies the doc's former offices.

It's worth a try, but no dice. The doc's office is locked up tight. I trudge back to the firm to the receptionist who gave me the bad address. She calls the destination to confirm their address, and it's around the corner, thank goodness. Back down the elevator, past the bewildered security guard, and out the door I go to the new location, check in with the receptionist, and wait. Wait, wait, wait. Opposing counsel doesn't show and I'm canceled again.

I told my agency, when assigned another job with the firm this week, that if I'm cancelled one more time, don't send me there again. Between the gas and the parking, the base appearance fee is barely worth my while. I'd make better money sitting in my recliner and editing someone else's transcripts during the amount of time I wasted.

On my way, my agency calls and tells me the job's been moved a half hour later. Okay. At least it isn't cancelled. Still, I'm a smidge irked that I'm pretty much committed to my drive and I'll be paying for an extra half hour of parking.

I arrive nearly forty minutes early. The receptionist directs me to a chair, and I open my book and wait some more. The deponent arrives and waits in the same cluster of chairs with me. Mr. Attorney arrives five minutes before our scheduled start and takes the deponent back to talk about things before the deposition. Opposing counsel arrives. We wait. Eventually we're led to the conference room and I can set up.

Oh, look! The hiring attorney enters a bit after 3:00, and he's carrying a box from a reputable bakery in the city. It's nearly full with a scrumptious assortment of Italian cookies. He offers them around and places them in the middle of the table. I take the opportunity to remind all present to swallow their cookies before speaking, since I won't be able to understand anyone talking with his mouth full. Hiring attorney says, Oh, don't worry, I speak slowly (he thinks!).

I swear the witness, and hiring attorney begins reciting a bunch of stipulations for the record. Not even finished his third sentence, he reaches into the box and pulls out a cookie. Oh, no! It's not just a cookie, but a blinkin' biscotti!!

There is precious little on this earth that's a crunchier or noisier chew than biscotti except for maybe bagel chips or corn nuts.

We had lots of repeated testimony.


Anonymous said...

stacy says:
Do you get compensated for all the cancelations? I'd throw a fit.

And I'm glad you stood up for yourself with the cookies. I'm sure I'd have just kept quiet and endured.


Just Me said...

When your job is to get every word, you can't keep quiet and endure. Yeah, sure, I have two backup recordings, but if I did'nt hear it the first time, the recording isn't going to help me later.

For cancellations, I do get a base fee for showing up, unless they cancel an hour prior to the job. Then my agency contacts me and lets me know. In that case, even if she isn't successful in contacting me, I don't get paid.

Coffee Bean said...

Are you ever tempted to add a little??? You know like descriptions of the people or... what they are really saying in plain english? I wouldn't be good at what you do. I'd be sitting there thinking about what they really mean.

Just Me said...

Coffee Bean: Good question. I'm no allowed to add or describe. Their words are their words in English as best I can. Certain dialects of our country may seem to beg for "dat" instead of "that," but "dat" isn't a word, and the clear intention is "that." Every "like," "you know," and "I mean" remains even though I'd love to pass them by.

Certain descriptive phrases are permitted as long as they don't influence the job. For instance, all answers given are to be verbal. No mm-hmm or um-umm, no nods or shakes of the head.

If the witness nods in lieu of a verbal answer and the attorney doesn't clarify (as he should), I cannot answer for the deponent. I'm not permitted to assume that to be "yes." I won't even indicate that the witness nodded because that is an interpretation on my part. In such cases, my transcript would look like:

Q. Were you on duty that day?

A. (No verbal response.)