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A year ago, I bought a one-bedroom condo on the twelfth floor of a high rise. The smartest thing I ever did. Night after night, I holed up inside. My automobile was ensconced in its own little indoor parking space, no longer subject to weather conditions or difficult-to-find street parking.

My neighbors were pleasant enough when I met them in the corridor or on the elevator. Riding up and down, I got used to the faces of people getting off and on from other floors a well as my own. Many were elderly, but a few toddlers navigated between falls in the lobby area. The names escaped me, but we chatted amiably on nothing or everything. I just saw the working crowd, middle aged and young, early or late, rushing in or out, or at the mail boxes. A couple of the older women asked me if I wanted to join their bridge group. I thanked them, but had to admit that I didn’t play bridge. Actually, I kept myself busy with volunteer work anyway.

Before too long, I became aware of an attractive young woman, maybe middle twenties, going in and out of an apartment at the end of my corridor. Had she just moved in? I couldn’t recall ever seeing her before. She had long blonde hair and a sweet smile. Intrigued, I began to watch her comings and goings, her friends and a nice looking, tall, dark-haired man. Somehow the idea of a boyfriend pleased me.

I met her in the laundry room one Saturday morning. She introduced herself as Eleanor. We compared notes on apartments, the number of rooms, and how long we had lived in the building—nothing special. I found her intelligent and pleasant. Then, for a stretch, I didn’t run into her and forgot about her in my own busy spring activity.

Late one afternoon on a clear, sunny day, I stopped at a sidewalk café for some coffee. It had been a long day. I was tired. I sipped the hot coffee slowly, sighed with content and leaned back against the chair.

“Hi,” a chipper young voice came from right behind me.

I turned my head around and met the sparkling blue eyes of my young corridor acquaintance. “Hello, “I said, smiling up at her. “What a nice surprise.”

“May I sit with you?”

“By all means. Please do.” I pulled my cup and pastry plate closer together and thought about her while she went into the shop and returned with a Coke, plus some kind of dip and chips.

As she sat down, she said, “I go to school across the street and needed a break before going into a speed class.”

My mind gave a start. Speed class! What kind of school is that? “Really? What are you studying? I thought you told me you worked in an office,” I added, puzzled.

“I do—to earn some money. But I study at the Court Reporting School across the street in the evening.”

I almost fell off the chair, but managed to control myself before calmly saying, “How far along are you on speed? Have you passed the 125 words-per-minute test yet?”

She cast down her eyes and grinned. They were shining when she raised them to look at me.

I laughed and shook my head in amazement. “Eleanor, you’ll never believe this. I did free-lance court reporting from 1957 until I retired in 1983. And that was over twenty-five years ago.”

“You did?” she almost yelled, as she leaned towards me.

I kept shaking my head. “I’m having trouble believing this.” Again, I laughed.

She laughed too. We sat there grinning at each other. Finally, she picked up the Coke straw, sipped, and looked at me. “Perhaps you could advise me. What speed do I need to be competent? What speed did you have?”

“162 words per minute.”

She stared at me, an amazed expression on her face.

“Well, tell me what you plan to do. Will you go into the government court system, or start out on your own with one of the agencies?”

“Did you work for the government?”

“No, I worked out of an agency, but I also had clients of my own. I’ll tell you right now that’s harder than court work.”


“In courts, you can stop the speaker if you don’t catch what was said. Particularly with a sworn witness where every word is important. You can’t do that in free-lance reporting, and it can get rough. Also the hours are much longer. You need a lot of stamina.” I hesitated, fiddling with my coffee cup. “I understand court reporting today is much different than when I was in the business. Do you use the stenotype machine or a mask covering your mouth to record every word on a disk?”

“The stenotype.”

“Good girl.” I smiled, pleased. “I hated how the mask caused reporters to be plugged into the wall… My machine was metal, 8x12 inches more or less, with a tray that pulled out to receive the tape as I worked. The metal stand snapped onto the bottom of it, making the whole thing heavy.” I stopped and looked at her.

She laughed. “It really is different. Mine is a sturdy plastic about half the size of the one you used and totally computerized. It not only records what I write, but takes down what the speaker says at the same time and sends the writing to the typewriter.”

My mouth dropped open. “That’s a totally different kind of reporting! Somehow that it cuts the need for a good vocabulary.”

“I hate to admit that, but it’s true. There are some people in my class who have barely graduated from high school. I don’t know how some of them will manage.”

“I’m appalled. That totally cuts out the professionalism of the older method of reporting.”

“I heard one of the teachers say that the old type of reporter doesn’t exist anymore.” She lowered her eyes embarrassed.

“Please forgive me,” I said, touching one of her hands that lay on the table. “That was very rude.”

At that moment, a noise began to emanate from her large purse. Eleanor deftly reached in, retrieved a phone, glanced at me and began typing on the small screen. I had been totally forgotten.

Suddenly, she became conscious of my annoyed look. “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, sheepishly putting the phone away. “I turned it off.”

I nodded. “As I was about to say, forget the professionalism; it’s a totally different kind of work in which I have no knowledge and can’t advise you. From what you say, maybe it’s all nine to five now. In that case, it wouldn’t matter if you joined the government or wanted to freelance. You would have time to do other things, which I couldn’t do when we were really busy.” I smiled at her. “You’ll have a much easier life.”

“I want kids and would like to spend a lot of time with them. So I should probably look into applying for the court system. That might be better.”

“I think, under the circumstances, you are making a wise decision.”

“How did you manage? Did your husband object? Did you have children?”

“Actually I never married.”

“But,” she said as she played with her straw, “why? Forgive me for saying this, but you must have turned heads—I saw a few when you walked in.”

“Oh it’s probably because I’m such an old dinosaur. Have you ever been in love?” I said in an almost maternal way.

“Many times,” said the young lady as she lit up a cigarette.

“Oh my,” I pulled back my head and blinked at her.

She laughed. “I’m just kidding. I tried dating but then I met Mark. I went to grade school with him. We bumped into one another on an elevator. I hadn’t seen him for years.”

For a second, her eyes shining, she looked into space. “You know it must have been made in Heaven the way we fell in love. We’ve been together for two years now.” She smiled sheepishly, not knowing how I would take that.

“I know exactly what you mean.” I checked my freshly manicured nails before taking a sip of coffee.

“So there was someone special. Tell me.”

“I was in love, once. Seriously,” I added. “But it’s too involved to waste your time listening to me.”

“I’ve got time,” she pleaded. “Especially if there’s mystery and suspense. And a little dirt, too.”

“I don’t know about that.” Her enthusiasm was catching, but I wasn’t sure how much to tell her. “Where to start…?”

“Start at the beginning,” Eleanor said matter-of-factly.

I pushed the coffee cup aside and smiled. “Good idea.”