“Please spell your last name for the court reporter.”
It is my first day on the job, a per diem assignment replacing a woman purportedly skiing in Colorado.
My hands fly over the keys. Please spell your last name for the court reporter, I write.
I have trained for almost four years for this. I feel good, I feel ready. My hands, poised mid-air, await the man’s last name.
The man on the stand begins to speak. “P-R-Z-Y-J—“
Wait, what? WHAT?!
I look up in time to see Diane, a fellow reporter, in the very back of the room. Our eyes meet and she grins, lifting her cup of coffee.
Welcome to court reporting!
Frozen. I am frozen. My hands remain over the keyboard, mid-air. I feel my mouth go dry. I’m pretty sure that I can feel my pupils dilate.
I have never heard those letters, in that order, in my life.
O, Wisconsin, you little Polish-immigrant state you.
None of this was covered in school, where we took mock testimony from Mr. Ronald Peterson and Mr. Jose Garcia. I curse inwardly as the name of the man on the stand goes on for what seems like an alphabet worth, ending, eventually, in “ski”.
Panicked, I write: SOMETHING-SKI. HIS NAME IS TODD SOMETHING-SKI. HOLY BUCKETS SPEAK TO CLERK OF COURT IMMEDIATELY.
The next 20 minutes are a blur. My confidence shattered, I am ready to weep. The integrity of the verbatim report has been compromised.
I drop my head, close my eyes, and focus on the speakers with the grim intensity I normally reserve for reclaiming overflowing toilets and cleaning up after vomiting children.
At the end of it, I open my eyes, sweaty and shaken. The attorneys are packing up, the judge is gone, the Clerk is gone – and Diane is in front of me.
She hands me a scrap of paper with a name written on it. “Przyjcymski,” she says. “It’s a common name around here.”
I take the paper gratefully.
My first friend in the court system grins at me. “You a drinkin’ gal, Pearl?”
And I allow that I could be talked into a drink, maybe.