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Saturday, July 11, 2009

ALA: Day Three

Travelling to ALA today was more of an adventure because I had to switch trains to get there. I had never made this switch before, so to be certain I didn't miss my stop, I crossed off each stop the train made in my schedule booklet. This worked wonderfully and I didn't have to ask for anyone's assistance. Actually, this is a tactic I've used before when travelling somewhere new on Metra and it occurred to me today that maybe that's just a way I've been coping with my hearing loss for years without realizing it.

At the switching station platform, I saw a group of ladies who had that librarian look about them. I edged closer. They were talking about the conference so I just barged into their conversation with a "Did I hear someone say ALA?" They welcomed me into their group and I got that safety in numbers feeling.

I felt particularly drawn to one of the ladies who also seemed to be a stranger to the others. I sat by her on the train and we started talking. This was rather tricky for the two of us as she had speech difficulties and with my hearing loss I had a tough time understanding her. All the same, we wanted to chat. We managed successfully by having her write to me on a notepad and then have me speak back to her. All too soon, we were at our stop.

Once inside McCormick Place, I broke away from the group as they were all going to the exhibits area and I was going to a meeting straightaway. My first program was held in a small room but I got there early enough to grab a seat in the front row. The room started filling up with people and someone behind me set a piece of paper on the chair next to me. I turned around to inquire about it and found out it was being saved for a friend of the ladies behind me. More people continued to come in and people started sitting on the floor now.

One of the conference assistants was concerned about the empty seat next to me. The ladies told her their friend was on her way from the "bus room". The assistant seemed annoyed. "Bus room? What are you talking about?" The ladies continued to repeat the phrase and a light dawned in my head. I butted in to the conversation and said, "Bathroom. She's coming from the bathroom." The ladies behind me were grateful for my intervention. I guess I knew what they were saying from all my practice at taking the nonsense I hear and turning it into something that actually makes sense. They told me they were a group from Egypt and needed to stick together.

The program was all about simple stretches one can do to relieve the strain that working on a computer causes your body. I found it very useful and look forward to adding them to my daily work routine.

My second program of the day was on metadata. This one was held in a very large room and again I scored a seat in the front row by the speaker. Once seated, I noticed a woman in a chair facing the audience off to the opposite side of the room. Watching further, I noticed she was using her hands to communicate. Could she be an ASL interpreter? I went over to ask and yes she was and yes I was welcome to come and sit in that section. I moved immediately. I signed my name and nice to meet you to the Deaf librarian sitting on my left and she signed her name to me. As fate would have it, the person to my right was the woman with the very soft voice I had sat next to on Thursday and Friday. I asked her if she knew ASL and she said she didn't. I turned on my Pocket Talker but kept my attention on the interpreter.

An interesting moment in the program came when the speaker used the word "shibboleth". I knew what that was but the librarian on my left and the interpreters didn't. I quickly wrote the word down and what it means on my notepad, showed it to my neighbor, and she communicated it by fingerspelling and sign to the interpreters. They were still a bit puzzled so I wrote "Bible word" on my pad and watched as that was signed realizing I probably could have managed to sign that phrase myself.

At the end of the program, I wrote out the Shibboleth story on my notepad and shared it. In case you're unfamiliar with this tech term and/or its Old Testament basis, here it is. Shibboleth nowadays refers to a computer system's way of authenticating that someone is an authorized user. The Bible story goes like this. "Shibboleth" was such a difficult word to pronounce in its native language that guards used it to see if someone was one of them or an enemy. Right after "Who goes there?" came the "Say Shibboleth" test. You can read the story for yourself in Judges 12 or find out more here (scroll down past the first definition). The ladies were impressed that I knew that so I signed to them "Sunday school" which brought big smiles. [See Mom and Dad, I did pay attention!]

Then it was time for lunch break. I met up with two of my coworkers and we joined the throng in the food court. We had to pay $11.75 for a hamburger with french fries and cole slaw. Pricey!

My last workshop of the day was on books and blogs. Two things I love, naturally. This was a panel discussion and I chose a seat in the back as I had to leave before the end to catch my homebound train. [The next one left an hour and a half later.] I got out my trusty Pocket Talker and the librarian next to me asked if I was recording it. "No," I replied, "this helps me hear the speaker better." Strangely she asked, "Is it worth it?" "Yes," I replied and left it at that.

For the train ride home, I travelled with my two coworkers. This time I had no need to cross off the stops as I was familiar with when my stop came. Arriving home, I greeted my family, relaxed a bit with them, and then took a blissful two hour nap.

Tomorrow I get a break. I will return to the conference on Monday. Hope you all have a great weekend!

1 comment:

ms toast burner said...

Wow, this conference is a doosie! It sounds like you're using variety of 'hearing loss coping skills' very well. Kudos to you, Sarah. :-)

And this bit...

"I saw a group of ladies who had that librarian look about them. I edged closer."

That made me bust a gut laughing! :D :D :D Could be a line from a horror novel! ;-)

Enjoy your day off!