On the evening in March at the Chautauqua Suites something unusual happened. Over 100 people volunteered to dine blindfolded to simulate what it is like to be a person without vision.
With blindfolds in hand, my brave friend Julie and I were waiting for directions about what to do next. Our table number was called and we gathered to meet our table mates and the guide who was there to be sure there was a witness to what we all feared would be an embarrassing process in dining. As Julie was told to put on her blindfold and take my arm, I was given some directions about how to properly guide a person.
Upon arriving at our table, we helped our blindfolded counterparts successfully get their seat. Level one accomplished. Feeling a bit like I was cheating, my eyes danced about the table trying to capture the placement of everything I could potentially come in contact with and/or break or knock over.
Blindfolds on, here we go! Our guide, Debbie, a lovely woman from the OTA program at JCC, introduced herself. We all followed suit. The most interesting thing about this part of the experience was trying to remember who was seated where and matching the voice to the positions at the table.
We were all offered bibs and without exception - accepted. Debbie explained the strategy of maneuvering the salt and pepper shakers and how to determine which was which. People without vision must be clever to overcome obstacles or suffer over salted food.
With great anticipation, we were on to the first course. The stealthy wait staff put a small plate in front of us with some delicious appetizers. On to the delicious soup. The handle on the cup was a functional bonus to avoid soup in one's lap.
During the salad and main course, I stopped trying to count the number of empty forks I put to my mouth. All agreed, this was not an easy task.
With so many interesting tastes and textures to tackle, the discussion among our group was a vigorous one. Oh, how the flavors danced on our tongues to dazzle the tastebuds. We agreed that the "impact" of food in routine dining does not captivate the senses in the same way. How interesting this social experiment is.
"My blindfold is off" to Lisa Goodell and her team from the Chautauqua Blind Association for a fantastic evening of fun, discovery and delicious education. The services CBA provides to our community are nothing short of essential.
I hope the funding does not suffer additional cuts. I plan to put this event on my calendar again next year. I will never look at the handle of a cup again without a silent message of thanks for sparing me soup in the lap!
Judi Goerke works in Jamestown.