aturday was horrifically hot and awful. It was over 100 degrees, and you could see the waves of heat coming off the macadam roadways. Instead of staying inside like any decent person would, I worked Deaf West’s booth at DEAFestival LA. Aside from the unbearable heat, I had an amazing time!
My shift at the booth was supposed to start at 2:00, but I hit the inevitable LA traffic. That, coupled with a 3 car accident on the side of the road, served to make me a bit late. As I pulled off the freeway, I saw with relief the little sign procaiming DEAFestival parking, and a blue arrow pointing the way in. Murphy’s law tends to work out so that whenever I’m running late, I usually get lost too. I was excited that didn’t have to worry about that today. I drove down a dusty road while a volunteer pointed me to park in a vast expanse of dustiness. There was a bus, shuttling people from parking lot to festival, so I retrieved my purse from the back seat of the car, straightened my new blue “Deaf West” shirt, and trudged through the dust to the bus stop. I was excited when I knew one of the volunteers helping people park! She also volunteers at Deaf West sometimes. We chatted a little before I took my place in the shade to await the bus.
It probably took less that 15 minutes for the bus to arrive, but the opressive heat made it seem like much longer. My little Disney Heat Index trained self was telling me to drink water NOW or suffer the consequesces. Too bad I hadn’t brought any with me. As I waited, I caught snippets of conversation from the others waiting for the bus. I think that’s the first time I’ve understood parts of ASL conversation without trying too. Evidence I’m getting better?
The bus dropped us all off underneath a line of tall pine trees, next to another field of dustines. Blue Easy-ups stretched out in the vast expanse of brown dirt while people bustled here and there. I joined them, determined to rush around and find the Deaf West booth as quickly as possible. As soon as I joined the crowd, a woman stopped me.
“Hi! You work for Deaf West?” she asked, signing with a very student accent.
“No, I’m a volunteer.” I signed back.
“Are you hearing?” She asked me.
“Oh thank goodness.” She said to me in English. She wanted to know about volunteering at Deaf West. I told her that I considered it an amazing experience, that they needed people for just about everything, and that she could go on the website and fill out their form if she was interested. We exchanged names, and I went on my way.
I found the booth pretty quickly, in the middle of the middle aisle. Ty, the Deaf West representative was chatting with someone in front of me. “Hi!” I signed to him, ” I’m volunteering today. I’m soooo sorry I’m late!”
“Don’t worry about it.” He signed back to me, and I took my place behind the counter. The next two hours were great. I chatted with people in my bad ASL, handed out forms, asked them if they wanted to win tickets, explained the shows that were coming up, and all together had an amazing time. They even had bottles of water for us to drink so we didn’t get dehydrated! The other girl who was volunteering with me was an ASL 2 student, and she did so well!! I don’t know that I would have done as well as she did when I was in ASL 2. We made friends fast, and exchanged numbers at the end of our booth stint. Several Deaf people asked me my name, several more decided to tease me (which I always enjoy), and I saw a lot of funny t-shirts. “I laughed my ASL off” was one of the t-shirts I really liked, but my favorite by far was “Don’t Scream, I’m not that Deaf.” I also saw a LOT of people I knew milling about in the crowd. It was exciting to know that I was recognizing people and becoming a part of the community, slowly but surely.
When my booth stint was up, I wandered around for a few minutes. I decided several months ago that my dream interpreting job would be to work for GLAD (Greater Los Angeles Agency for the Deaf), so I was excited to see their signs. I took a bunch of fliers, figuring I would peruse them later. I also walked around to see if there was any ASL merchandise I wanted to buy. Sadly there were only two booths selling things, and they were things I really wasn’t interested in. The other thing I really missed was the TTY museum. Maybe they decided not to attend because all their antique machines would be outside in the dust. Aside from all the booths with Deaf themes, booths from the city of Los Angeles were there too. The Democratic party had a booth, the water district had a booth, and so did one of the candidates for city council. It was nice to see people who aren’t part of the Deaf community trying to participate. I commend them for trying, but it didn’t seem like many people were interested in what they were doing. To be honest, I wasn’t very interested in what they were doing either.
I had an appointment that evening, so after I strolled leisurely through the rows of booths, I took the bus back to my dust-covered car and went on my merry way. It was a great day! I think my ASL stood up really well to the challenge of explaining things, I got to meet neat people, and I got to spend time with the Deaf community. What could be better than that? Not a whole lot.