For the 25 minutes it was pitch black at the Foundation Fighting Blindness‘ Dining in the Dark event (which I attended as a media guest), all I could think about was how easy it would be for someone to steal my purse, stab me, or eat all my food. I guess this is what watching too much CSI does to you. It makes you extra paranoid and jittery.
Thank God the lights weren’t off the entire time. The first course was see-able, and I devoured my soup course in plain sight while goggling at important people like Ross Perot and Ebby Halliday, who gathered inside the Hilton Anatole last night to hear remarks made by the Foundation’s people. The work that FFB is doing is pretty amazing, and if I had millions to give, I’d be supporting its mission to drive the research that’ll provide preventions, treatments, and cures for those afflicted with retinal degenerative diseases too. All the speeches made me thankful for my gift of sight, and even more so when they turned all the lights off for the main course. Blind waiters, like our guy Joseph, trained all night to serve donors their dishes. A firefighter stood in the corner should disaster befall. And a few staff members wore night goggles in case someone choked or needed assistance. Everything was fine, really. Nothing to be scared about, but if Events Editor Liz Johnstone and People Newspaper’s Bradford Pearson hadn’t been there by my side, I might not have made it through those 25 minutes.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
[The lights turn off.]
Brad: Whoa-oh-oh. This is the best thing that’s happened to me in a long time.
Carol: This is the worst thing that’s happened to me in a long time.
Brad: I have found my wine glass.
Carol: I think I totally touched your silverware, Brad.
Brad: Alright, we’re good. I got my hands on it now so you’ll have to touch my hands next time. At least take me out to dinner first.
[People are booing.]
Brad: Boo! Boo! There’s a light. Whenever one of those cell phone lights comes on, it looks like a ghost. I can see you holding your recorder right next to me. There’s a bright red light, Carol. Is that your hand, Carol? Is that your hand again??
Carol: I don’t know!
Brad: Maybe? Well, we’re getting to know each other.
Liz: Are you okay?
Brad: I’ve found my water glass, I have to make sure I know where it is.
Liz: Did you find your silverware?
Brad: My silverware’s fine, my glasses are clinking, and I feel like I have a straight shot to that wine bottle.
Liz: So I definitely won’t be cancelling my next appointment with my retinal specialist…
Brad: I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t underwritten by opthamologists.
Liz: I’m terrified. I can’t even see you, and you’re right there.
Carol: Being blind makes you want to touch people, I don’t know why. [Brad's hand slides over my face.] … DID YOU JUST TOUCH ME?!
Brad: Oh! I can smell seafood! All my other senses are heightened.
Liz: Dangit. People don’t like seafood, that’s normal. This is a totally normal problem.
Brad: Make your case known, and hopefully Joseph (our waiter) will know.
Liz: But I told the other person, not Joseph.
Brad: Ideally, they would realize. We’ll see.. we’ll see.. or we WON’T see.
Liz: Yeah. We won’t see.
Brad: There’s literally no difference between opening your eyes and closing your eyes, except for Carol’s light.
Liz: I think that’s the point, though, because even when you’re in a bright room, you can still see the light behind your eyes.
Joseph: Is this table 18?
Carol: Yes, this is 18.
Joseph: Okay, who is no seafood?
Joseph: I’m coming to you first.
Joseph: Okay, keep talking so I can hear where you are.
Liz: Okay!! I’m right here!!
[In case you couldn't tell already, Liz is extremely glad she doesn't have to eat seafood.]
After we all get our plates…
Carol: What? What’s going on?
Brad: [Laughs] Liz just felt her dinner. There’s some kind of sauce on my plate. I just dipped my finger in. Actually, the sauce is pretty delicious.
Liz: See? Now you’re feeling your dinner. Would it be awful if I just ate with my fingers because it’s so much easier? Nobody can see me, so i’m just going to eat with my fingers.
Brad: Go for it. It’s your night.
Liz and Brad: How are doing over there, Carol?
Carol: I’m alive…
Liz: I might have to get tacos after this…
Carol: I’m moving my mouth closer to the plate.
Brad: I sense that. Hearing the echo is different. Carol, you’re right, moving closer to the plate is easier.
Carol: There’s no room for error.
Brad: I feel like I’m using echolocation.
Tablemate: I’m not sure what all I got. I found the beef; I found the beans; I found the veggies.
Brad: Have you found your seafood area yet?
Tablemate: Uh, I think I did, but I’m not sure.
Brad: It’s there somewhere, just keep exploring. Oh! I didn’t expect to have more shrimp, but I do!
The rest of this transcript consists of more fork-stabbing sounds, new discoveries (like the fact that there’s cauliflower on the plate), and a point at which Brad loses his fork. When the lights are flipped on again, it’s clear who, out of the three of us, adapted best to the darkness. Liz and Brad cleared their plates like pro blind people. Mine? Still 50% full of food.