|Just before heading into the dining room.|
Let me tell you how it unfolded.
The restaurant holds two seatings, and you must purchase tickets ahead of time. It is not unusual for tickets to sell out, so we bought ours early -- a month ago.
When we arrived at the restaurant, there was a crowd milling around (including a few guide dogs in training), waiting for the first seating to clear out so we could go to our tables. The staff handed out black sleep masks as we waited. After we put on the masks, they had us form a conga line and we shuffled to our table.
|Our friends Ron and Heidi (picture taken at my 50th birthday party in June 2012).|
The first thing we did upon sitting down was try to orient ourselves to our booth and table. We each had a side plate, napkin, knife, and fork. There was nothing else on the table, which was fortunate.
When she brought our drinks, the waitress asked us to place our hands on the table, so we could feel where the glass was as she put the drink down. Smart! My biggest fear was that I would spill my drink. Even with full sight, I've been known to spill a drink or two. Fortunately, that dd not happen as I pointedly kept my glass at 1 o'clock, and gingerly slide my fingers toward it whenever I wanted a drink.
The first thing we all noticed was that it was really hard to hear each other. I suspect that we ordinarily rely on a certain amount of lip-reading when we are in noisy environments. The next thing was that we were suddenly conscious of how much of our "listener" part of the conversation is non-verbal - nods, raised eyebrows, and the like.
She went blind in both eyes, as a result of a benign tumor on her optic nerve. She said that the most difficult thing for most blind people is not reading, cooking, entertainment, or any of those pastimes; it is walking. That, she shared, is terrifying.
For several years, she used a white cane, but found it "dumb" -- it has no intelligence and could really only warn you of obstacles or unevenness in the pavement.
Finally, she adopted a guide dog, and it changed her life, suddenly giving her back her mobility. She now can navigate busy downtown streets without fear. Her dog will retire in a few years, and she intends to adopt another guide dog.
As each course was laid, they played music to give hints as to what the dish was. The first course was accompanied by lovely vintage French music -- a cheese-and-fruit platter. Fortunately, they had already sliced the cheese.
We had to resort to our hands to retrieve the food - and it was hard to find the different items. Also: discovering a sliced strawberry when you are expecting grapes or cheese is a little unsettling.
I tried telling Ron that the bread was at 6 o'clock, but he was seated opposite me so had to translate it . . . and it just got too confusing. I'm not sure he ever got a bit of tasty bread with his cheese.
About this time, Steve, Heidi, and Ron all found that the masks were too uncomfortable (they made their eyes sweat), so they took them off. I, however, knew that if I took off the mask, I would continually struggle with opening my eyes. I'm just like that. So I left the mask on.
The next course was ushered in with some good southern country music and a riff on "You Can't Hurry Love" - with the lyrics:
You can't hurry ribs,Once again, a platter was placed in the middle of the table. We reached into the dish to find barbecued ribs. The ribs were delicious, but were accompanied by a small bowl with heated spherical objects. Olives? Nope: cherry tomatoes. Once again, we just used our fingers.
No, you just have to wait.
Ribs don't come easy,
It's just a game of turn and turn!
An individual intermezzo of raspberry sorbet cleansed our palates. Again, without being able to see it, Steve wondered what he was to do without a spoon. (The spoon was sticking out of the sorbet.)
Then we were serenaded with "That's Amore!" and we speculated what kind of Italian dish we would be served. What if they give us spaghetti! Can you imagine the mess?
The waitress placed a dish in front of each of us. The warm aromas of garlic, cheese, and tomato filled our nostrils. Mmmmm. After some investigation (yes, I actually touched my food), we determined that we had a Caesar salad and lasagna.
This was our first real challenge with cutlery. We all laughed as we tried to get some salad on our forks, only to come up empty. Or we stabbed a chunk of lasagna and came up with a chunk the size of Labrador!
"I feel like I get three empty forkfuls for every time I actually get food in my mouth," noted Steve, "and then it's this huge mouthful!"
Eventually, I learned that it is easier to scoop salad than to pierce it. Moving on to the lasagna, I tried to be strategic about cutting it, but the top layer of cheese was tough and the entire serving ended up in disarray. I thought I had finished my salad, but I continued to get bits of romaine lettuce in with my lasagna.
As the wait staff cleared the tables, or host introduced a surprise: a stand-up comic to entertain us. He was very funny but took a minute to realize that we didn't exactly "get" his joke about being in a mixed marriage because we couldn't see that he was black. That might have helped.
Dessert was a feuillette pastry with ricotta filling. I tried using my fork at first, but gave up quickly and ate it like a doughnut. It was, ahem, very messy and my fingers were so sticky by now -- after ribs, tomatoes, salad, pasta -- that I dipped my napkin into my water glass and washed my hands. What I would have given for a finger bowl!
At that, they turned on the lights. We all rubbed our eyes and felt, once again, disoriented.
I glanced at our table and was not the least bit surprised to see it covered with debris and splashes of drinks and food. When I commented to our waiter that we sure had made a mess, she replied, "Oh, you should have seen it after the previous meal. There was Caesar salad all down the middle of the table!"
What a memorable experience! I'm looking forward to doing it again next year.