The Deaf Car Parking Attendant


After walking around Salta all morning, I’m now a little late to meet a deaf friend for lunch. I speedily walk past several roads, using my google map, walk past the plaza, past the cathedral, Avenue Espana, Avenue Sarmiento, and finally find the restaurant. It’s a vegetarian restaurant with colourful chairs, however the place seems closed! And I have no wifi connection to contact my friend. I am in a little dilemma, my friend may have already come here and sent me a message to meet elsewhere. I walk into a hairdresser’s shop next door, asking if I can use their wifi connection. Using google translate, I explain why and they are most kind, allowing me to connect through their mobile phone network as they didn’t have wifi.

My friend messages me, he is on his way to meet me, and advises me to stay put. This is fine. I wait outside, looking like a proper tourist. I watch the numerous cars driving past, I also admire the colourful walls nearby painted with lots of beautiful graffiti art. I can see people walking in different directions, its kind of siesta time where everyone has finished work or education and is rushing off to have lunch and then rest a while before the later afternoon part of the day begins. I think the whole concept of a siesta does people really good psychology although not sure how it would work if you worked rather far away from home; my average commute when I was employed was an hour from door to door.

About ten minutes go by and then I spot this slow driving car approaching me, it was Enzo – the deaf friend I was meeting. At the same time as his waving to me, this car parking attendant appears and talks to Enzo – it looks like one of those animated gestured conversations, but no, it turns into more than that, as if it was a signed conversation. I am initially a little puzzled and then I realise that the attendant is deaf! Further, he’s a friend of Enzo, and has been watching me on the street for a while. He tells Enzo to go park in another street. He turns to me and asks if I am the deaf guy from Ingleterra (England), I confirm and ask how he knows. He tells me everyone knows about me coming to Salta!

We talk a little but all the time he has one eye on the road for anyone trying to park their car or anyone leaving without paying him. He looks rather daft if I am honest, wearing a bright orange jacket, a hat with a sheet of material at the back probably to protect himself from sunburn.

This eye contact reminds me of when my good friend Derek and I were in Germany many years ago asking this hearing guy behind a flight desk where the nearest gay bar was. He was talking to us in broken English, his eyes were looking elsewhere, which was actually his brain actively using the left side to process language. I was innocently looking to see what the clerk was looking at. It was hysterical. If you don’t get it, don’t worry! A long story is due 😉 😉

He has some really nice dreadlocks but they don’t really go with his appearance. I watch him for a while, actively monitoring the road he has responsibility for, chasing drivers, telling new ones where to park. He is just an everyday guy working as a car park attendant, no interpreters or access to work provision! He’s doing a bona fide job from how I can see. I have no idea if he is enjoying the job. We talk a bit more he tells me there are another three deaf parking attendants not too far away. He’s been doing this job two years.
He agrees to a photo with me at my request which is pleasing for this blog post. He then tells me that the restaurant will open shortly, he saw the owner come and go recently. It’s as if he knows everything that is happening on this street aside from telling cars where to park.
Later on in the evening, having had a good lunch and explored a few museums, I enjoy an late afternoon nap and then proceed to the deaf club. Its about six minutes’ walk away from my accommodation by fortunate coincidence. The building is effectively a large flat with standard rooms and adequate lightning. I am stood outside and ring the bell. Out of all the people in Salta to open the main door and let me in, it’s the flipping car park attendant!!

He has donned his work clothes, now dressed somewhat casually with short jeans and a baggy top. He looks different but his face and dreadlocks remain consistent. He signs so fast, and is so keen to show me around the deaf club and to tell me where everything is. I join a sign language tutors’ meeting to observe, he follows me and sits right behind me, watching the meeting underway. I’m not sure what he is doing, whether he wants to be a sign language tutor, but he’s starting to grow on me.
The following evening I return to the deaf club for its social gathering, making endless empanadas with a group of ladies and stuffing ourselves. The car park attendant is there consistently, he gives me a couple cans of lager and refuses to let me pay. He is constantly walking around the deaf club, talking to different people, stimulating conversations and occasionally involves me.
I get the impression that he “suffers” quite a degree of impulsivity, constantly questioning and talking but equally I can imagine that he can get lonely outside of work and the deaf club. Its as if this contact with other sign language users is something he cannot live without. This, I am guilty of taking for granted – I am from a deaf family. I see him really looking happy, laughing with people he has known for years. He has a cigarette every now and then. He enjoys his tall bottle of Salta lager and is generous too. He never keeps still, possibly why he’s perfect at his job! He gives me a goodnight hug and tells me, just like every person I’ve met along this journey, “Cuidado” (Take care of yourself).

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