For some mysterious reason, I get the idea in my head that I owe Dan from TAR 13 a beer. He asks for a Coors Light and I regret the offer immediately.
If I expected Margie and Luke to be joined at the hip tonight for communication purposes, that is very much not the case. Margie accumulates a group of fans near the bar, and I wade in. "Are you still in shape since the Race?" I ask the bionic woman. "I haven't done a thing," she confesses, but promises to get on that this week, not that she isn't wearing the hell out of a little black dress tonight. I learn something interesting: Luke and Margie auditioned for the Family Edition (with two other family members, of course), and nearly made the final cut, but were told the show decided to "go a different way." Margie was not previously a fan; in fact, the first time Luke had her watch the show, she said, "This is the worst thing ever!" Glad she came around. And when she's told how lame the Family Edition was, she's glad that didn't work out.
Meanwhile, Luke is some distance away towering over another group of fans, at least one of whom is using ASL. And actual ASL, not just the sign for "bitch" that everyone here knows quite well. He comes around and signs something to his mom, and she jokingly says/signs, "All bad. I'm telling them only bad things about you." I don't know what his response is, because those yellow words only appear next to him when he's on the TV. Damned inconvenient.
So because I don't know ASL and didn't bring my translator with me, I just hold up my nametag for him to see. He nods knowingly. I write him a note saying, "My wife knows ASL, but she couldn't come." Except I made the mistake of writing it on the back of one of the pages from my hotel-room notepad, the same one I was writing the recaplet on during the show, and he flips it around to see what I wrote about the finale episode. Oops. I can't tell which part of it he's reading, and while he deciphers the gibberish I scratched down while looking up at the big screen, I try to think whether I said anything rude about him or his mom on that page, or indeed anywhere in my notes. I guess not, because after a moment he hands it back to me with a shrug like, "It's a fair cop." Or maybe he means, "Needs punching up." Which it totally did. This isn't performance art, you know.
As I drift near the bar, Jaime is That Girl, sitting on a stool with her back to the bar, flashing her "Look at my partner eat those bugs!" smile and constantly three-deep in dudes. Yeah, she may be a cabbie's nightmare, but all the Racers I meet tonight are better looking in person than they are on TV, and Jaime's pretty good looking on TV. I did see her paying for her own drinks, I hasten to say. I kind of half-overhear her talking about the part she didn't like about bungee jumping: after you jump, you're just left hanging there. I can see where someone with Jaime's overdeveloped sense of urgency might find that frustrating. Cara is working the room more, in a kind of loose elliptical orbit around her partner. I happen to be standing next to her when she signs something across the room to Luke, and I make a show of looking away. "I'm not trying to eavesdrop," I tell her. She laughs that she would have yelled it across the room to him, but it wouldn't have done any good. Which, yes, I get that. It turns out she does know some ASL, mostly fingerspelling and a smattering of signs and "stuff I made up." I tell her who I am, and she cringes a bit and says she stays away from "the blogs." We talk about the difference between who people really are and their personas as presented on the air, and that I trade in the latter. She seems to appreciate that I get that. I'm not sure she appreciates that she wasn't the one I had a problem with in the first place. Later I get a chance to ask Jaime how she's dealing with the crowd and the noise in here, and she says with practiced speed, "Better than India." So clearly I was not the first person to ask her that.