By Gayl Hardeman, RDR, CRR, CPP

"It Could Happen to You" - a flick I liked starring Nicholas Cage and Bridget Fonda - the cop who kept a promise to a waitress to share the lottery if he won it - remember it?

Good things can happen to you.

Being asked to CART a wedding isn't winning the lottery, but it is special, and I've been happy twice now to be able to provide realtime services at a wedding. The first time was while I was living and working in Massachusetts. (Ten years ago? Tempus really does fugit!) The second was just recently here in my home state of Florida.

Wedding # 1: I had been working frequently as a CART provider for a late-deafened young man at meetings which he attended. When he asked me to provide CART for his wedding, I was honored and excited. The wedding was to be in a beautiful New England church and was to be presided over by both a priest and a minister. Members of the audience would be deaf, late-deafened, and hearing friends of the couple. The bride was deaf and read lips very well. The couple decided that there would be an interpreter for members of the audience and that I'd provide CART for the two of them up at the altar.

I sat on a chair that was positioned between the officiants (the priest and minister) and a large potted plant shielding me and my steno machine from view by the audience. My cream-colored laptop, a color-screen Toshiba (a "splurge" in 1994!), was perched on my little tripod-tray table, which the wedding coordinator draped with white satin and adorned with a ribbon to match the bows on the pews. The bride and groom were seated in front of a small altar and kneeling bench so that they could read the Toshiba screen and the lips of the officiants with ease. I was seated to their right about 45 degrees and could see my laptop 45 degrees to my right. All the cords were fastened by wide white tape to the floor so no one would trip.

I was really nervous. The officiants spoke quickly - and although I knew what they were going to say (I'd been given a copy of the actual ceremony) - of course each had to ad lib and tell a story about the bride and groom. That made me nervous; I had no idea what they would say. I was hoping it wouldn't be a joke; those are the hardest because you want to make sure you're right up with the speaker so your readers can laugh with the rest of the audience.

The words were scrolling up nicely - even with the Latin verses of "Ave Maria," for I'd created an include file the day before and fed it up line by line while the song was being sung. And it gave me time to b-r-e-a-t-h-e and relax a bit.

Fast-forward to the end of the ceremony. "Do you, Bride, take Groom to be your lawful wedded husband (names changed to protect confidentiality) to have and to hold," (etc.)

"I do."

My heart is pounding; I'm nervous again.

Now comes his turn. "Do you, Groom, take Bride to be your awful wedded wife?" ASTERISK ASTERISK CLEAR SCREEN OHMYGAWD! FORCE STROKE!! GET THE WORDS OUT THERE! …."to be your lawful wedded wife?"

I know it was just two seconds, but it seemed an eternity before the correction got onto the screen. What happened?

Meanwhile, polite little giggles ripple from the audience -- is he thinking it over? -- as the groom "hesitates" -- reading the screen - and the bride is waaaaaaiting for his "I do" - nudges him with her elbow - he bellows "I do!"

Had I been able to "become one with that plant," I would have leapt there.

Mortified, horrified. "It Could Happen to You." That, too.

But the show and I went on - through the toasts of the dad, the best man, the DJ's patter. The bride and groom forgave me, but I never forgave myself. It's hard to write it now, perfectionist that I am in my CART work.

For the reception we placed the laptop on a small table within the U of the head table. From their dinner table, one riser above the rest of the crowd, the newlyweds could take in the festivities on my screen in the line of view of their guests. Tears came to the bride's eyes as her father gave a beautiful tribute.

Wedding #2: Fast-forward to January 2005 - I was asked to provide CART for another wedding - this, for the mother of a member of the wedding couple who had recently lost her hearing.

With the cooperation of the bride, the minister, and the audiovisual director at a large church here in Florida, with the fantastic wonders of e-mail and the Internet (for finding lyrics) - we were able to build a job dictionary well in advance (I say "we.")

I had invited a "mentee" -- a court reporter on maternity leave who had been studying CART with me for the past six months -- every other week for three hours, inputting/practicing suffixes at home when her two-year-old allowed her). Yes, Tammy Milcowitz, RMR, was ready to apprentice. She had prepared a job dictionary for the wedding as trained and was to shadow-write the wedding.

When we arrived, we hooked up to the new flat-screen PC monitor provided by the church. The display was beautiful! We changed all our colors to blend with the wedding colors - cream and sage. We changed ALL the colors so that NOTHING came up in any color that we didn't want - in other words, untranslates were changed to sage, as well as globals, page breaks, you name it. We even changed our font to italic. We displayed five lines of text.

Again I used the technique of "including" a file of one song's lyrics and displaying it line by line as the song was being sung - I call it "CART scripting," and I'd done this once before when I CARTed Elie Wiesel's recitations in Hebrew!

We sat in the second pew with our steno machines and laptops. The CART consumers were seated just in front of us. That SAME tripod tray was now draped in black satin. The AV guy had run an electrical power strip for us under the front pew, so all wires were under the front pew -- nothing for anyone to trip over. (By the way, we wore grey and black and cream pantsuits - not too business-like, not too dressy, not too casual. We didn't want to stand out.)

It is a good thing that Tammy was there and well prepared - because after the wedding commenced, my power cord failed! She was able to take over seamlessly - thanks to the A/B switch we'd brought that switched the input from A (me) to B (her).

It Could Happen to You.

How to Tag-Team
We had arrived early and turned on our laptops, one at a time, while hooked up to the PC monitor through the 15-pin RGB connection. Once we had established connections, we switched our laptops back to "laptop display" while we made last-minute screen and dictionary adjustments. Shortly before the ceremony began, we switched back to "simultaneous display." (My key is FN f5; each laptop is different.)

The church is trying to find a church member who might take on the provision of CART as a ministry. I've forwarded JCR articles on CART to them. The CART recipients for this wedding had never heard of the Association for Late-Deafened Adults or NCRA or even CART providers. It was great to be able to tell them about resources like the NCRA Web site and CARTWheel.

How did I get the job? An attorney friend of the family had heard of CART and had asked his local court reporter about it; she knew I did CART and called me. The CART recipients are interested in having us come back to provide realtime for the courses they teach at the church.

Cultural Sensitivity
There were different types of consumers for these two events - born-deaf, late-deafened, and newly deafened. The first consumers were very familiar and comfortable with CART, the second unsure but happy with the experience and wanting to know more.

What About Pay?
The first wedding was volunteer service, the second was a paying gig. Both required prep in terms of vocabulary and sensitivity to the person and culture. Both required a site visit and equipment test on a day before the event. Both were rewarding and exciting, and both weddings required attention to setup and the clients' needs. We gave a Word document of the proceedings afterwards for both weddings.

Future of CART?
Last week I had dinner with my brother, who's 54. I noticed he was saying "What?" a lot, and he confessed he's losing hearing in his left ear - the very ear he'd held to the speakers at the Jimi Hendrix concert in 1966! Hint: My brother wasn't the only one listening to Hendrix.

Will there be a need for CART in the future? There's a definite future for good CART providers.

It Could Happen to You!

Gayl Hardeman, RDR, CRR, CPP, lives in Pinellas Park, Fla. For more information please visit