I was going to do a review of the 2020 movie “Antebellum,” but I’m not sure enough time has gone by for people to have seen it (or if people even intend to see it) and the problem of spoilers and all that.
So I guess I’ll wait a while (although I’m frothing at the mouth, and it’s not good froth) and do it later this year and instead take you—drag you–kidnap you—down a special rabbit hole with me. Concerning what? My job.
I stumbled across a closed captioning ad in the UCLA job center one afternoon. It was completely unexpected. I visited the center regularly, never thinking I’d actually find a job. In fact, I was on the verge of full-blown panic when I discovered the captioning ad.
I’d majored in English and ruined my life. I didn’t have the drive to work for a newspaper or to compete for those coveted publishing house positions. I was too shy (and unorganized) to be teacher. And this was before there was any social media or web content available to write, edit, or proof-read from the anonymity of one’s home.
But closed captioning looked doable. It said something about “creating subtitles” for TV shows and movies. Being detailed oriented. A good speller. Blah, blah, blah. I was actually a terrible speller, regardless of my major, but I figured that’s what dictionaries were for. (Yes, this was before spellcheck).
I applied in Hollywood at Gower Studios and passed the test but ended up turning that down when I realized there was a New York office. I’d been hankering to live somewhere where I didn’t have to drive anymore, so that, along with the thought of snow and actual seasons, sent me to the east coast.
I’d glimpsed the captioning equipment in the Hollywood office, but that hadn’t fully prepared my psyche for the monstrosity that awaited me. The only thing missing from this photo was the nob control that we used to operate the video.
Captioning turned out to be pretty rewarding. Instead of getting fired, as I had predicted upon arrival, I picked up the process pretty well and was pounding out Jeopardy! like a maniac within a month or so. And there were other shows, where I learned a lot, and movies. Who could complain? I was also enjoying NYC’s seasons, despite almost giving myself a hernia while slipping on ice in Manhattan or feeling my DNA unraveling beneath the immense humidity of summer.
I learned to spell at this job. I discovered (embarrassingly, pathetically late) that airplane hangar was spelled differently from a clothes hanger and beaucoup was not spelled boo koo. After a while, I became a senior editor and mainly did proofing and quality control, which…meh. I’ve always preferred the actual captioning. Among some of the best and most infamous errors caught over the years (not by me) were:
The rings of Saturday
The abdominal Snowman
And the best one: Hi Hitler.
I’ve signed a NDA, wherein I’m not allowed to talk about anything concerning the shows I do, much less the job’s inner workings, so I’ll have to use alternate words for everything here.
So basically, you walked in, grabbed your show (on videotape) and spent your entire shift doing a 20-minute sitcom or 25 minutes of a movie. You exported a Buddha button in XX frame rate on a soft floppy disc. A few years later, it would be a hard floppy disc.
You printed out long sheaths of paper with your entire file on it, shamelessly murdering generations of trees, so that your supervisors could circle missing commas and typos. It was the ‘80s, after all, and “Wall Street” was playing. The environment was still not a concern. Greed was still good.
You turned off the computer and went home, wide awake, energetic, happy to be alive.
Fast forward in time many, many years.
Videotapes are gone. Discs are gone. Simplicity is gone, along with understanding. This is the setup now, more or less.
You walk in. You clock in on the computer to show you have arrived, you’re ready to work. The one sit-com is there. But so are eight other varying items too. You must set a clock every time you start a job. The email pings constantly. You search for information. A response turns reality upside down. What? It has to be done in X0 and not 0X?! You wander a labyrinth made of cipher and higher math that you haven’t revisited since the tenth grade, all the while with the clock ticking like a time bomb.
Speaking in code again, you no longer export a simple Buddha button. You export a Buddha, a Rock, a dictated Soda, an undictated Soda, and a Nail in XX frame and then engage in some light calculus and first-year IT coding in order to complete the assignment.
Here’s an example of instructions that I’ve rewritten in the special language especially for you. Just skim it unless you truly enjoy torture:
After running final inventory, remove the original NO WORDS PLACE.
Export an XX Rock button.
Convert your button to XX0.
Add a SpaceX space and fantasize discreetly about Mars.
This should be the last Frog and have a Beta Male Life Cycle with the Initiator being jacked directly following the last Frog with content.
Export with the Moon Base preset.
Drop all buttons into Moon Base 7.
For the Poster button, go through and re-calibrate all bells and whistles.
Retain Raindrops on leaves.
Remove Tech Word for NOISE (Keep the Tech Word on Alphabet. Because of this, you can’t do a Piledriver now. Also, removing the Tech Word may distort items, so don’t count your chickens).
Export Rock, Buddha, and Razor buttons (In the Tech Word reappearing box, uncheck Gladiator and use NO NUMBER as Initiator to retain the NUMBER Life Cycle in the Razor button.) Double-check in Magic Paper to make sure Razor has NUMBER initiators and that Space Time Continuum has been retained and is still Resonating at X0-21-21-01.
My name is Stacey, and this is my story.
I used to carve messages in stone with a sharp tool.
Now I program the space shuttle, whether I want to or not.
But I know—think—am pretty sure—that after I drop all buttons into Moon Base 7, everything will be fine.