C is for Captioning

A year and a half ago, when people asked me what I did for a job, I could give an answer that was universally understood and required no further explanation – “I’m a teacher.” Of course, this would be followed by details of where, what and who I was teaching, but generally, people were never confused as to what exactly I did on a day-to-day basis. Nowadays, when someone asks me what I do, I hesitate a bit before answering. Saying, “I’m a captioner” usually results in a variety of confused looks, and almost always involves me having to launch into a lengthy, detailed explanation.

I don’t blame anyone, because a year ago, I would’ve had the same reaction. A year ago, “captioner” would’ve fallen under the category of fun things I didn’t think I could do and get paid for. It’s silly, because I watch TV, and I know about captions and subtitles, and I know someone must produce them, but I never considered that that person could be me, or that I could earn a living from it.

That’s the reason why, when I saw the advertisement for the job pop up on my job-hunt website, and realised that I fit the description of the kind of people the company was looking for, I applied very tentatively, not at all sure that anything would come out of it. It’s why, when I was short-listed for the position, I wasn’t sure it would lead to an actual interview. That’s why when I was called for the interview and had a wonderful chat with the woman who’s now my boss, I still couldn’t process that it would lead to an actual job, because it all seemed too good to be true. Someone was going to pay me to watch TV and nitpick about grammar? Had someone reached into my subconscious and created a job from the two things I enjoyed doing the most? There had to be a catch, right?

I’ve been a captioner for about six months now, and I’m happy to report that, no, the other shoe hasn’t yet dropped. I waited almost half a year for this position (the Singapore branch of the company was, at the time of my application for the position, just being set up, so the higher-ups had to iron out a lot of issues before they could officially hire me), but in every other way, I feel nothing but lucky.

There are those people, however, who, when I explain to them what I do, have a way of making it seem like it’s a job that requires no skill whatsoever. “You just have to listen and type, right? What’s the big deal?” I know I shouldn’t get defensive, because you get those kinds of people and those kinds of comments in any situation. “You just have to teach kids, right? What’s the big deal?” And yes, when I consider teaching and the ridiculous amount of skill, effort and mental courage it takes, captioning feels like the simplest, easiest thing in the world. But there is a skill to it and there is effort put into it, and it can feel offensive when someone implies I get paid for doing nothing. Then again, if I’m getting paid for doing nothing, I must be doing something right, huh?

Regardless of what people say, though, I’m happy with my job, one that lets me combine my strengths and my interests. It’s like my Venn diagrams of work and play have overlapped, and I couldn’t have asked for more. It’s proof to me that, yes, it is possible for work to not be a chore, to come back feeling happy and satisfied after a long day at the office, instead of tired and frustrated, and, most importantly, to not have the Sunday blues.

Who would’ve thought?


17 thoughts on “C is for Captioning

  1. Anna April 14, 2015 / 3:31 pm

    I still remember that time you did the transcript of a lecture and it took soooooo long to do… Don’t let the rascals who don’t know any better get you down! So happy that you’ve found a job that you love =D

    • Clueless April 4, 2015 / 1:37 pm

      I’ve realised that people in the media industry seem to be very aware of it, but people outside have zero knowledge. I think it’s also because closed captioning is not a very prevalent concept in Asia, so it’s hard for people to immediately understand what I do.

  2. Sara April 4, 2015 / 1:05 am

    Wow! That sounds like a fun job and not just because you get to watch TV, but also because… well, you get to work with words. I’ve seen some captioning and some of it is awful. I always assumed it was done by computer. I’m glad to know there is a real person behind the words. What you do is important. There are those who rely on the captions and you show them respect by making sure it is done well. I’m glad you found a job that you enjoy and that suits you!

    • Clueless April 4, 2015 / 1:38 pm

      Haha, I’ve seen some examples of terrible captioning, too! I don’t know if it’s better or worse to know that there are actual people behind those as well! 😉

      Thank you for the kind words, though! Much appreciated. 🙂

  3. Sayesha April 3, 2015 / 5:44 pm

    //“You just have to listen and type, right?”

    LOL! I get that sometimes. “You’re an editor? So you correct typos and stuff, right?”

    • Clueless April 3, 2015 / 6:11 pm

      Amazing how condescending people can be about other people’s jobs, no? It’s possible to reduce any job to a one line description, but what really annoys me is that hidden implication (“My job is harder than yours”). Why make the comparison to begin with?

  4. GlassHalfWhat? April 3, 2015 / 4:33 pm

    Sounds awesome 🙂 I think how you feel on Monday mornings is a good indicator of how your life is. Not much is to be had from having a ridiculously high paying or terribly impactful job unless and until it moves you on some personal level to do it!

    • Clueless April 3, 2015 / 4:38 pm

      Dude, I agree completely. If you have the money and don’t have the time to spend it, or are doing something incredibly noble, but spending all your life miserable and tired because it’s so demanding, I don’t feel like it’s worth it. You’re here for a short while – might as well do something that keeps you happy on a day-to-day basis, right?

      And the Sunday night/Monday morning thing is absolutely true. I thought everyone felt terrible on Sunday nights, because that was my only experience of a working life. I know now that it’s not true, so I can’t settle for less!

  5. RHooda April 3, 2015 / 3:18 pm

    I love the fact that I get paid for having fun. Isn’t that what everyone wants?

    • Clueless April 3, 2015 / 4:11 pm

      Absolutely. What do you do for a living?

      • RHooda April 3, 2015 / 9:30 pm

        For living, I breathe.

        In order to make money, I am a Jack of many trades, master of some. Happily Homeless and Joyously Jobless. I travel, I write, I speak, I take pictures, and entertain kids of all ages.

        I love my unconventional life.

        • Clueless April 3, 2015 / 10:03 pm

          Haha, for A living, not for living.

          But wow, that sounds wonderfully vague and diverse! Congratulations. 🙂

          • RHooda April 3, 2015 / 10:23 pm

            My blog is titled Make a Life, Not a Living.

            Yes, you can’t put it in a box.

            I used to tell people I am a bum, and they would be like, “no, really, what do you do?”

            Now they are amazed at my ability to be a bum.

            • Clueless April 3, 2015 / 10:25 pm

              It’s always difficult to get used to the idea of unconventional jobs. It’s great that more and more people are doing fun, out-of-the-ordinary things, though. Hopefully, we’ll reach a point where all jobs seem equally plausible and feasible.

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