Captioner ready for supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Cynthia Hinds, CRC, and her daughter Katie

Cynthia Hinds, CRC, a captioner from Mabank, Texas, recently posted the following on Facebook about an experience she had during a captioning job:

One of my favorite clients to work for was doing a college visit day for 1,300 families. With so many people, she had to keep talking while all those people filed into different places. So, she decided to have a little fun with the captioner. You know how hard it is to think of my answer and keep up with what she is saying? Nice light-hearted start to the weekend 📷

I also want to thank our realtime captionist.
How many of you have seen realtime captioning before?
Okay.
So, I didn’t realize before I started working here at [name of school] that the captionist is not sitting behind a screen.
They actually can be anywhere in the country.
So, captionist, welcome.
And where are you from?
>> Captioner: From Dallas, Texas.
The captionists are always from a warm climate.
Slightly warmer than what we have today.
What’s the forecast in Dallas?
>> Captioner: Around 60 and sunny.
I am jealous.
But I am headed down to Dallas later this month, so hopefully that warm weather continues.
Another fun thing about the captioning is that they have to type any word that I say.
So if I say, Supercalifragilistic-Expialidocious they have to type that on the screen.
>> Captioner: Very funny.
Wow, I’m impressed.
Thank you for being such a good sport.

The JCR Weekly reached out to Hinds to get more information about what was happening that day.

JCR | What is your captioning background?

 CH | I’ve been captioning since 1996. I was hired by the National Captioning Institute (NCI) while I was waiting on my Texas exam results. I packed up at 24 and headed to the Washington, D.C., suburbs, where they trained me thoroughly and put me on the air. I worked for them for 10 years, VITAC for five, and then began my independent career. I captioned broadcast in the beginning of my career until I left VITAC. Then when I went independent, I found so much work in the CART side of things, so I do mostly that and moonlight with a little broadcast captioning on the side. Truthfully, it feels like the lines between these two sides of captioning are more and more blurred, so I end up doing it all. In the past few weeks, I’ve done a tech-con, a college admissions pitch, a support group for students, a nursing class, a broadcast of a video game tournament, a few college district board meetings, several government meetings of different agencies and levels, a training webinar, several hours of Fox News, basketball game arena announcements, and a hockey game broadcast — all from my home. I also went recently to caption the Dallas Hearing Foundation’s Fundraising Gala event pro bono. My friend runs the charity, so I’ve done that for the last 11 years. That little job includes my fast-talking friend (she should know better; we met in court reporting school for Pete’s sake!) and, the golden jewel of the night – a live auction. Finger gymnastics! So, yeah, I caption it all.

 JCR | How do you feel when you are captioning and the speaker addresses you directly?

 CH | When they do start to play with us, the tangle of trying to think of the answer to the question and trying to remember what they said to write it becomes the new game. I have a few thoughts that can really turn the pressure up. One, try not to make it awkward by making them wait too long for a response; two, now all eyes are on your words, so don’t screw it up! Three, this is a chance for captions to be spotlighted, meaning, not just the words, but the incredible service it is for so many people.

I love it when people “play” with us. I really do. But the pressure increases and then that magic thing we do where the words stream through our ears, almost seemingly to bypass our brains and emerge from our fingers gets interrupted. When I had to think of an answer, it now had to go through the obstacle course that is my brain. I’m a 48-year-old single mom! Entering the brain forbidden forest could mean the words wouldn’t make it out to my fingers. 

When she started talking about the captioner, my ears perked up. Here’s what I know: If they want to show off captioning, which I actually like since so many folks think artificial intelligence is putting those lovely words on the screen, they almost always play with words, and of course they’re never normal, everyday words. And one word they love to say is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. The job had been fairly easy. I hate to say auto pilot, because, well, they’re never that easy. But cruising along and it was wrapping up. I was in my robe, and I forgot my fuzzy socks. It was Saturday morning and as soon as I finished that job, I had to get ready for the gala job, including really dressing and getting all my equipment there. So when I got out of bed that morning, I just threw on the robe. My toes were cold. In Dallas, we had a cold blast, but I could see the sun through my window, so I could tell it was nice and bright. I usually throw my curtains open, but, for whatever reason, I didn’t that morning. So when she asked what the weather was, I had to rely on some distant fuzzy memory of it being a nice weekend, even though clearly, it was cool. My toes were cold! I ended up guessing pretty accurately … 60 and sunny.

Most of my captioner friends have a brief for supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I don’t. I don’t know why, my brain just likes the clear path from hear the word to send the word to the fingers. It works for me. So I write it out in squeezed parts – SUP/CAL/FRAG/EXP/YAL/DOSHES. In captioning to an encoder, you have 32 character spaces across a line of text. That’s it. So at NCI, Darlene Parker, FAPR, director, steno, captioning & realtime relations, and Karen Finkelstein, realtime manager, had me put it in hyphenated in two parts so it could go partly on one line and partly on the next and still be readable since the word is 34 characters. So that old outline was in there and I was feeding an encoder, so I knew it had to have a break in the middle. Good ole NCI training saves the day again.

I would never ever interject unless I was being directly addressed. There’s so much thought in those moments. So many consumers want you to sort of be the fly on the wall, a simple conduit of communication. They want others to see them and interact with them, not the captioner. It’s not my role to speak for them or do anything else but convert the spoken word (and sometimes ambient sounds) to the written form so they can receive what they need to get through their day. So, it is odd when we are called on to “speak” for ourselves. But I knew what she was doing; she was playing with me and trying to be entertaining while she waited for hundreds of people to scatter and go in different directions. And I am a jokester. Sincerely, I love to banter. So I saw my chance in the right place and went for it. I could hear the laughter in the crowd.