Just who is this “Dee Boenau,” you might ask?
I am a determined woman with a competitive side sprinkled with a pinch of spunk, married to Jack Boenau, captioner/reporter extraordinaire in his own right. I am determined to finish what I started in my own personal best way. Sometimes that determination can be a dangerous thing.
Many years ago, I found myself at the top of a small mountain, but it looked very big in this amateur skier’s mind. Looking down the mountain, the reality of my situation struck me like an avalanche. Determined to get down that mountain, my spunk took over. Before anybody could say, “Dee, wait,” I took off on my downhill adventure, and with every ounce of energy I could muster, I tried to snowplow the densely packed snow. Because I was gaining too much speed, my energy quickly turned to thinking about how I could stop without hurting myself. As a Floridian, I don’t own a ski suit, but I was wearing four layers of pants, so I dropped my butt to the ground and wiped out. Nobody could see me because of the white cloud of snow I created, but I had brought that skiing attempt to a successful halt.
The determination to get down that mountain is the same determination that has made me the successful and skilled realtime captioner I am today. I was concerned at first that viewers using the captioning would see I was not getting every word. So I practiced for three months before I first went on the air, captioning local government meetings. Soon I was no longer fearful that people would see that I was not getting every word because my determination to practice had improved my skills. When I did have to drop words, who watching the captioning would be able to remember what words I did drop if people were talking that fast? It’s kind of like the white cloud of snow when I wiped out on the mountain and nobody could see me. Nevertheless, I’ve made it my goal to be the fastest realtime writer I can be.
I’ve been very fortunate to caption for clients who truly do appreciate what I do and the skill set I possess. The show Daytime, produced at Riverbank Studios in Tampa, Fla., is just that kind of client. Daytime is a nationally televised show in the United States covering a myriad of subjects from wines to makeup to music to the latest happenings in Hollywood. When I won the National Court Reporters Association Realtime Contest in 2010, the producer of Daytime invited me on the show to talk about the win and describe just how closed captioning is performed. It was a fabulous opportunity to bring awareness to the general public about closed captioning, how there is a human being behind those words, and why sometimes there are strange translations or words that seem out of place.
That wasn’t the only time Daytime has recognized me on the show. In 2011, I traveled to Paris where I competed in Intersteno, the trademark of the International Federation for Information and Communication Processing. I placed second in the World Speech Capturing contest; China placed first. Daytime once again acknowledged my achievement on the show. I am one lucky captioner for sure!
I was then approached by Marc Greenberg, the documentary producer of On the Record: A Year in Court Reporting, to participate in the Guinness World Record Attempt in Nashville in 2013. I initially said no because the attempt was to consist of two-voice question-and-answer testimony dictation. As a captioner, I don’t do any work that involves testimony material. Knowing that I didn’t have a chance at breaking the current record, I changed my mind because I thought I could be a good representative for the closed captioning industry and help bring more exposure to the professionals behind the scenes.
I mentioned the Guinness World Record attempt to the producers of Daytime. They loved the idea and invited me and a few other people involved in the World Record on the show. Initially, Daytime wanted to have a real competition between Mark Kislingbury and me, but I didn’t want to make Mark look bad. Okay, I’m just kidding. I wanted to make sure I still had your attention. That’s my pinch of spunk.
The day arrived that we were to all meet at the Riverbank Studios located in Tampa, Fla. I arrived with my magical bag, like the bag Hermione Granger has in one of the Harry Potter movies where she can pull out anything she needs at any point in time. That’s what my steno bag is like. I have every adapter, every cable, two of everything — and the production crew at the television station loved it! If you watch the segment on YouTube, you’ll see that Mark and I are hooked up to monitors. No, I didn’t pull the monitors out of my bag, but I did have all the necessary cables and adapters to hook us up.
Once we were all set up, I almost felt like I was at the top of that scary little mountain again, but in this case, I knew there was no possibility of breaking any bones if I wiped out. I captioned the entire show of Daytime from that very spot where you see me seated in the video. I had to tackle some technical issues connecting to the encoder, but thanks to the fantastic engineering staff at the station, the humans outsmarted the technology. At one point, I thought about clicking my imaginary ruby slippers together and repeating, “There’s no place like home to caption from,” but then I realized I had taken my shoes off in order to curl my toes under so I could concentrate better.
Gone was my comfort zone and quiet environment of my home office from which I caption daily; hello to all sorts of noise and distractions surrounding me on the set of Daytime. When it was time for me to caption the segment that I was in, the production crew was actually breaking down the set and the monitor behind me while I had to write the 360 words per minute testimony portion and the Jersey Shore dictation of that segment. My attempts at a very loud “Shhhhhh” went unnoticed, but that’s okay because I knew they were working under some time constraints. It’s possible the distractions made me concentrate even harder, and I really didn’t mind the challenge.
All involved had a wonderful time on the set of Daytime. Marc Greenberg brought attention to a profession that has flown under the radar unnoticed for years, and Mark Kislingbury and I had a chance to demonstrate the skills that can be achieved. We owe a great deal of gratitude to Daytime for giving us the platform to do this. I am sure it will spark interest from the general public to check out court reporting and captioning as a career. I am determined to promote the profession everywhere I go and to be the fastest and most accurate realtime writer I can be and to keep looking for a higher and higher mountain to tackle!
Dee Boenau, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, is a realtime captioner, CART provider, and convention reporter in Sarasota, Fla. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.