The Dudes Do ATIA Orlando 2012: Day 1. Of Cold and Heat and Things to Eat

It’s always noticeable when you start a day in the dark at 30F and end in the sunshine at 75F. Of course, traveling from the north-east of the US to Orlando, Florida, makes this easier. And as I write, I’m listening to Donald Fagen’s classic I.G.Y. from one of my most played albums, The Nightfly. [1]

The Caribe Royale Hotel and Conference Center is home to the Assistive Technology Industry Association’s (ATIA) 2012 conference, where the technorati glitterati strut their funky stuff and network with old friends, new friends, and alligators. Well, perhaps not alligators although it’s rumored that occasionally a toothy, embryonic handbag will waddle close to the fringes of the hotel, startling visitors and prompting them to make a trip to the nearby Orlando Premium Outlets to stop by the Coach or Dooney & Bourke stores.

Caribe Royale

Caribe pool and bar

Luckily for the dudes, the walk from the bar to registration avoided the Everglades and the only dangerous creatures to avoid was the guy in the rental car who hadn’t quite got the hang of where the brake pedal was (it’s the one that isn’t the gas pedal, asshole!)

The signing-in process was stunningly easy, requiring you to either scan the barcode of your e-mailed registration (which we’d left in our rooms) or to type in your surname and first three letters of you first. Only the first three! Good news for those of us who are aging a little and find counting to four something of a challenge.

The only teeny tiny flaw was that I had to ask for my “Presenter” ribbon. This, as seasoned conferencees will know, is an absolutely critical facet of life i.e. the more ribbons you can accumulate, the better! A friend of mine one year managed to stack six in a line, presenting a veritable rainbow of credentials. The more ribbons you have, the more of a “somebody” you are. Allegedly. Wandering around with just a plain badge that has “Attendee” printed on the paper pretty much marks you out as a noob and are not allowed to make eye contact with the be-ribboned luminaries. [2]

Caribe Conference Center

Today was the day of pre-sessions for those keen and eager souls who want to make the most of their time in sunny climes. However, the dudes are not signed up for any of these so, alas, we can’t report back on the content and learning objectives.

However, we can report that we were successful in finding a liquor store in order to stock up the refrigerator with bourbon and rum and beer. I hasten to add that we don’t intend to drink all this on our own (there are two of us here) but share it with a few friends during the week. We’re staying here for meetings after the conference so the aim is to just make sure we can “entertain” folks.

We must also applaud the single-mindedness of the two therapists from Chicago who I met on the shuttle to the hotel. Their plan was to be by the pool within 30 minutes of stepping off the bus and, to their credit, they were! Now that’s the conference commitment we like to see 😉

We were intending to settle in for a relaxed evening, watching the sun go down from a 5th floor balcony, sipping cocktails and gradually falling asleep in wicker chairs, only to wake at 3:00 in the morning with checkerboard asses. But we ended up in the exhibit hall for the last 40 minutes of the opening, doing a quick tour of the place to get our bearings and say hello to the folks we know.

At 7:35, exhibitors and attendees were ushered out for the evening, with the promise that we could all come back tomorrow at 10:15 a.m. Yes, that’s 10:15 – one of the very civilised aspects of ATIA is that it is exhibitor friendly and allows for folks to get a good night’s drinking sleep before the busy day ahead. Sadly for presenters, the sessions start at 8:00 a.m., which means no lazy morning starts with a leisurely hour or two sipping coffee by the pool.

To end the day, the we headed out to Dakshin, an Indian restaurant that we’d seen a few doors down from th liquor store earlier. [3] See, searching for alcohol can have wonderful and unexpected side benefits. For folks interested in Indian cuisine, we started with Wada Sambar, fried rice and lentil patties, along with Fish Cutlets, shallow pan-fried spiced fish cakes, then followed up with Kottyayam Fish Curry, swordfish with a pungent tamarind-flavored sauce, and Tikhut Kombdichi, chunks of chicken breast in a coriander and black pepper tomato-based sauce. Needless to say, we cleaned our plates – or should we say large, metal tray with dishes in them. Surprisingly, we went non-alcoholic on the drinks with a mint soda and mango lassi (a delicious mango and yogurt drink that sometimes is so thick you need an industrial vacuum to suck it up the straw!)

Dakshin Indian Restaurant

Dakshin food

The day is done. It’s after 10:00 p.m. yet below us folks are swimming in the pool and we’re sitting in shorts and T-shirts breathing in the still-warm air that actually contains a hint of humidity; something we north-easters haven’t experienced since last summer. Tomorrow the sessions start and the next post may be more educational.


[1] Strictly speaking, I’m listening to the Howard Jones version released in 1993 and appearing on his Greatest Hits album. Fagen’s The Nightfly is one of those must-have albums for anyone who aspires to being musically eclectic. It was released in 1972 and is a magical today as it ever was. And there’s nothing like driving through the night down California’s Pacific Coast Highway from Malibu to Santa Monica with Donald Fagen as a musical companion.

[2] Back in the UK, it would be customary for a man to tap doff his flat cap and say something along the lines of “beg pardon, guvnor!” and for a lady to curtsy slightly and simply say “Ma’am” and look down. Ah, those were the days!

[3] Dakshin is an old Sanskrit word meaning “south,” so the restaurant specializes in southern Indian cuisine. For completion, uttar means “north,” paschim means “west,” and poorva is “east.”

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