Q: Please state your name for the record… LOL.
A: I’m Melodie Lewis.
COURT REPORTING: IT FLOATS HER BOAT!
Melodie Lewis, RPR, conducted by Jan Ballman FAPR, RPR, CMRS; Veritext-Minneapolis
This month Jan chats with Melodie Lewis, RPR, a court reporter who lives and works from her 62-foot motor yacht in Port Canaveral, FL. Click through to read more and see photos of her out-of-the-ordinary setup.
Q: Please state your name for the record… LOL.
Q: Melodie, thanks so much for agreeing to tell your cool story to THE VERITEXT REPORTER.
A: Sure! I’m kind of blown away by this, but thanks for asking.
Q: I think you will inspire others by demonstrating how this great profession provided the opportunity to live out your dream of living on the water.
A: It really has!
Q: Tell everyone how you came into your interest in court reporting. I know for so many of us, we knew someone in the industry. Your story is a little different.
A: It is, and it’s kind of a funny story. We had moved away from Orlando and had come back for a visit. We ended up housesitting for friends on a trip back home. One of their daughters had locked her room and left her radio blaring. It was so loud! No one could get in to turn it off, or even down, so we had to listen to her music all night, as well as all the commercials. One commercial kept coming on over and over and OVER all night for a local court reporting school: “Can you type fast? Do you want an exciting new career where you can make lots of money?” And I thought to myself, ‘Hmm….I can type 108 words a minute, and I wouldn’t mind making lots of money.’ At the time I was teaching. So I looked into it, and the rest is history.
Q: So you were a teacher at the time?
Q: What did you teach?
A: I taught music at a public school; elementary music for three years, and then also middle school class piano and chorus.
Q: You must also be a musician then?
A: Yes. I started playing piano at age 5. I actually majored in tuba in college.
Q: No way!
A: I did. And as we know, there are many correlations between learning stenography and learning to play an instrument. In both instances you’re learning a skill and a language at the same time. So I feel that helped me in court reporting school.
Q: I’m sure it did. For sure playing the piano gave you a leg up with your hands as far as finger dexterity.
A: Yes. Piano gave me good dexterity, which definitely helped with speed-building.
Q: Melodie, you are a Floridian working out of our Orlando office?
A: Yes. I moved back home to Florida to work. I actually started court reporting school in New Orleans. I was in school there when Hurricane Katrina hit.
Q: Oh, my gosh. Did that throw a wrench into school for a time?
A: Absolutely. It changed my life and its course for a while. But I finally returned. And I had reporting classmates that I had kept in touch with who had gone to work in Orlando at Orange Legal, now Orange/Veritext, and they just loved working there, so they recruited me to come join them. So that’s where I went right out of reporting school back in 2015. Jill Percy actually hired me.
Q: Jill hired you? I love Jill! Jill only works with the best!
A: She’s such a hoot. She actually talked me into moving to Daytona Beach for a while because they badly needed reporters there. Not just anyone could convince me to do that!!
Q: Might have been fun back in the college days, but yeah…
A: Maybe, LOL. We had a lot of work in Daytona, so I agreed to move there for a little while to help out. But now we live in Port Canaveral, which we love.
Q: Let’s talk about that. You live in Port Canaveral… right on the water?
A: Yes. I live on a boat in a marina in Port Canaveral, which is a cruise ship and naval port right by the Kennedy Space Center.
Q: Wow! Does living so close to Kennedy Space Center mean you get to see the rocket launches?
A: Yep, we have front-row seats from our deck. Night launches are spectacular!
Q: That sounds so amazing!
A: Yeah, living on water has its advantages. It’s always been our dream. Sea life is incredible. Every day we get to enjoy dolphins, sea turtles, manatee. It’s so awesome.
Q: I’ll bet you catch some great sunrises and sunsets too.
A: Absolutely. Sunset happy hours are a thing.
Q: Would be my kind of thing too, I assure you of that. So if you live on a boat, that means you started working on a boat when the pandemic hit?
A: Correct. I have actually had an office on our boat for 2 ½ years.
Q: We think of homes in terms of 3 Bedrooms, 2 Baths, 2000 square feet—that sort of thing. Describe your boat for us so we get a feel for it.
A: It’s a 62-foot motor yacht. It’s more like a floating condo than a fishing boat that most are probably familiar with. It has about 1300 square feet of space with four staterooms and three heads—which is what a bathroom is called on a boat. Unfortunately.
Q: That is unfortunate.
A: I know. But our boat has literally everything you’d need in a home. Except good wi-fi.
Q: Uh-oh. That probably became more of an issue this past year?
A: Yes, it’s been challenging at times. I use a hotspot, but I’m looking for a better solution. I’d welcome ideas for better connectivity.
Q: I’ll bet you’d get some ideas from your fellow reporters.
A: Please–email any suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Did you convert one of the staterooms into an office then?
A: Yes, exactly.
Q: I take it the size of your boat is such that you don’t feel any movement from waves or the water while you’re at your machine taking down proceedings?
A: No, that’s not usually an issue at all. I move with the water. And it’s never enough movement to be a factor. We’re also located kind of in a cove, so it’s pretty quiet.
Q: Do you take the boat out to sea at all, or does it stay docked?
A: We don’t take it out much. We pretty much stay docked. I am always too busy working!
Q: Well, that’s good… right?!
A: Absolutely. It floats the boat!
Q: Touche! So, can clients see that you’re on a boat when you’re doing remote work?
A: Not really, but I do have one funny story. When you live on the water, you have barnacles that form on the bottom of the boat that you have to have cleaned off regularly, so we have a diver that comes every month to scrape off the seaweed and remove the barnacles. And it’s noisy because barnacles are really hard, and they’re literally banging on the bottom of the boat to shake them loose. One time the diver came right when a depo was starting, so I had to tell everyone in the proceedings that I was going to need to keep myself on mute for the duration because I have a diver under my boat, literally UNDER MY FEET, cleaning my barnacles. And they were like, “What? Seriously?” They actually thought it was pretty cool though.
Q: Of course they did…because IT IS! And as we know, it’s important to be memorable in building one’s clientele. “I’d like to request the Boat Reporter, please.”
A: Hey, whatever works!
Q: Exactly. Melodie, what’s your favorite type of proceeding to report?
A: I do a lot of personal injury and insurance work, which I really enjoy.
Q: I think that’s a sweet spot for a lot of reporters. What’s your favorite thing about reporting?
A: I like that you’re working all the time, but you’re not in a job all the time. I like being my own boss. I love the flexibility freelancing provides. And I was very grateful that court reporting was able to power through the pandemic. I made just as much last year as I did the year before, which obviously did not happen in every industry, unfortunately. Also, as a court reporter, I am knowledgeable in all things, but master of none. For instance, I could TELL you how back surgery works. You might not want me performing back surgery on you, but I know how to. LOL.
Q: Taken a few depos of surgeons over the years, have you?
A: A few. As in quite a few.
Q: I was at a neurologist appointment with my dad last week, and based on the questions I asked, the neurologist thought I was a doctor, nurse or lawyer. I said, “Guess again.”
A: When you listen to enough doctors, you can speak their language.
Q: If not perform their job! Okay, one last question for you, Melodie, and then I’ll let you get back to the sea. At the seven-year point in your career as a reporter, what advice do you have for new professionals in our industry?
A: Find a good masseuse! Seriously, I would advise self-care. Sometimes I have a hard time with balancing life, family, work, and everything else, and I tend to neglect myself. It’s a work in progress. But as reporters, we need to take care of our bodies, both physically and mentally. If we don’t, we won’t be able to take care of anything else.
Q: Well said and very true. Great advice, Melodie! Hey, it’s been great fun and a true pleasure “meeting you.” Keep living the dream, Girl!
A: That’s the plan! Nice meeting you as well, Jan.