REPORTING: Reflections on my career

 

By Gayle Hays

Driving my car the other day here in Seattle, it occurred to me that I had graduated from Kenosha Technical Institute in Kenosha, Wis., as it was called then, forty years ago in June 1973 with an associate degree in Court and Conference Reporting. I’d like to tell you what that education has meant in my life.

I come from a blue-collar family with five siblings, so college was never a possibility for me. But I definitely knew I didn’t want to be a waitress the rest of my life in a small town of East Troy, so I flipped through the KTI programs book. I can still recall the picture of the young lady sitting at the steno machine. I had zero knowledge about it but I signed up. Getting through two years of school was the toughest thing I ever did, especially getting my speed up to where I could keep up with someone talking. And I got whipped into shape with my math, anatomy, business law, and philosophy (which I didn’t like). Back then tuition was free. I only needed to buy books and get myself to school the hour each way, rain, snow, or shine, in my little Volkswagen Beetle.

Of course, everything has changed since then. There’s no more carbon paper or white-out. It’s gone from typing to realtime on a computer. I started out my career filling in at court in Waukesha County, including the awful day when two people murdered in the next courtroom. I freelanced in the Walworth-Kenosha-Racine County area for many years and then moved to Seattle in 2001.

I knew I could always take care of myself and my family financially, without having to depend on anyone. When I moved to Washington, I found a job in pretty much 15 minutes because I’m a Registered Professional Reporter, and that means something. Every working day has been interesting, meeting new people. Even if the subject of the lawsuit is, say, plumbing, it means someone’s life and someone’s money. I haven’t had a nine-to-five job in decades. I answer to no one since I’m incorporated as my own company.

Some testimony has been challenging, and I’ve heard terminology on everything from toxicology to blood-splatter science. I’ll do research for my transcripts until it’s absolutely correct. The highlight here in Washington was the occasion when I did realtime before the Washington State Legislature on huge screens around the room on hearing-impairment issues.

And now I’m on the cusp of retirement. I don’t know who said that, if you have a job you love, you never work a day in your life, and that’s very true for me. I haven’t “worked” since 1973. Thank you.

Gayle Hays, RPR, owner of Hays Reporting, Inc., is a freelancer in Renton, Wash. She can be reached at jghays@q.com.