Surprise, Surprise! Expect the Unexpected When Providing CART for Live Events
By Theresa Marie (Tess) Crowder, RPR, CRR, CCP, Tampa, Fla.
The First Annual Black Tie Gala, a fundraiser for the local Deaf Service Center, was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. As I entered the ballroom at 5, stress levels were in the high range as I set up my equipment and then anxiously tracked down someone, anyone, for the information needed for my dictionary, which I had been requesting for weeks prior to the event.
Fresh off the press, I grabbed the printed program to search for proper names, corporate sponsors, a list of speakers, and the agenda for the evening. As I was frantically preparing my job dictionary, a kind employee/server of the facility offered me a beverage from the open bar. Although it was tempting, I reluctantly declined.
As the crowd began to pour in through the double doors, I was nearing the end of the program booklet in preparation for the ceremonies. All that was remaining in the booklet was a list of items to be auctioned. I asked the program chair, who was also a close friend of mine, and late-deafened, if this information on auction items would be necessary for my preparation work. She signed to me the welcoming news that the information on these pages would not be needed. I was thankful that this event included a "silent" auction; how appropriate, was my thought, for a deaf event.
After the opening remarks were concluded, we were all seated for a five-course meal. I felt honored to be sitting at the table with the Master of Ceremonies, a local celebrity and well-respected member of our community. After introducing myself and explaining my role in this event, I half-jokingly asked if he would be speaking slowly and clearly for me. The laughter that erupted following this question had me wondering if he misunderstood or even heard my words. Not until after the fact did I understand his whole-hearted chuckle.
The speakers, skits, and speeches following the meal went well. As they were announcing the information for the winners of the silent auction, I released a quiet sigh of relief, confident that we were wrapping up the evening. As the remarks were drawing to a close, the emcee announced, "We are now ready to begin the live auction!"
WHAT? The LIVE auction? I thought this was supposed to be a SILENT auction! This is every captioner's worst nightmare! I was told I didn't need to prepare for this list of items from the program book! How can I possibly provide CART from an auctioneer? My eyes must have looked like saucers as my back stiffened and my jaw dropped. My vision shot toward my friend sitting at her table across the room. As I got her attention, I quickly signed to her my comments of disbelief and horror. She broke into laughter as she was signing, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"
As I'm sure many captioners and CART providers have experienced, I instantly switched into adrenalin mode, typing at speeds I had only ever dreamed of before this night. This is a great example of why we need excellent fingerspelling skills, spelling names of people who donated the items, the brand names of these items, the companies with which they are associated, and the names of the celebrities and artists who had autographed these items, etc. And numbers, numbers, numbers. Fortunately, auctioneers repeat themselves many times during the bidding process, my saving grace. I now understood the meaning of that chuckle from the emcee about speaking "slowly and clearly."
By the end of the evening, I was more than ready for that cocktail that had been offered to me prior to the gala. Unfortunately, the open bar was now a closed bar, so I would have to wait until I arrived at the comfort and safety of my home to enjoy a glass of red wine. As I was struggling to calm my nerves, recounting the challenges of the evening, I forced myself to focus on the kind words expressed by the attendees who were so thankful and appreciative of the CART services I had provided that evening.
I have just participated in my seventh Annual Black Tie Gala, proud to be able to say I have successfully provided CART at an auction once again. I met up with the same emcee this year, who also has participated for the last seven years, and we still share a laugh about that first night, seven years ago, when I was baptized with my first live auction.
Tess Crowder, RPR, CRR, CCP, is a CART provider in Tampa, Fla. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.