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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Accepting Accomodations: Day One

October 29
Hello from Orlando. I'm starting this post on a computer available at the conference center. At the airport my family got our first surprise when we had to pay $15 to check our bags. What? Since when did this fee come into effect? Thanks, American Airlines.

My first day here has been so overwhelming. Looking back, it probably wasn't a good idea to fly in late the evening before, get up early, and try to face a new and challenging situation... My second surprise of the trip is that the Orange County Convention Center is huge. It just goes on and on. Note to self: next time pack rollerskates! After I located some coffee, I was ready for the opening session. Following the email instructions I had received, I approached a staffer with a radio and asked for directions to seating for the hearing impaired. Unfortunately, there were a lot of people entering at the same time and we were all sort of herded along and I didn't find the assigned seating section. Fortunately, though, there was seating available in the front where the volume was good. Even better the speaker was displayed on enormous video screens making lipreading a breeze. So far so good.

For the second session in a much smaller room, I found the sign for my reserved seat located right in front of the speaker podium. Funnily though, the lady who made the introduction of the three panelists was short. All I could see of her face over the open laptop on the podium was her eyes. tee hee. Fortunately the male panelists were taller and I could see their faces with no problem. But...the second speaker had a very soft voice! I was just reaching for my Pocket Talker when another audience member asked him to please speak into the microphone. Ahh, much better.

Session three had my assigned seat not in the front row but about row four. Strangely it was located right next to the slide projector. Grrr, now I had to deal with that noise competing with the female speaker's voice. I used my Pocket Talker to boost her volume but I could still hear that projector. This session was one that I thought would best relate to my new job but it turned out to be completely unrelated. Drat.

After lunch, I went to a session held in a computer lab setting. I made a switch to attend this one so I knew there would be no reserved seat for me. When I entered the room, I asked the speaker where would be a good seat to sit to hear well. He told me he would be moving around the room, so I decided to sit on the aisle halfway back. As it turned out, he did not move but stayed in the front. Fortunately he had a good strong speaking voice and I was able to hear him alright. His female colleague, who said very little during the presentation, had a very soft voice so I just ignored her contributions. This session was also challenging because we were seated in front of laptops and expected to be logging in to websites and posting contributions to a group discussion all the while listening to the speaker. Yikes. I struggled with typing on an unfamiliar keyboard let alone thinking of something worthwhile to contribute. I did my best to multitask but I'm sure I missed some of this speaker's presentation.

Back at the hotel that evening, I rejoined my family and heard about their exciting day at Universal Studios. We went out to dinner at the hotel restaurant which featured Caribbean food. My salmon dinner came with a flower! How lovely. There was one funny moment at dinner when my son talked about "barrels flying in" through the open door when he and my husband ate breakfast there that morning. What? Oh my bad, not barrels but sparrows. Day One is over.

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