I am someone who has pretty much always suffered from very poor eyesight; I am nearsighted, which simply means I can only clearly see what's right in front of me. I can't clearly see what's near me, definitely not what is far from me, but only something a few inches away from my face; a few inches too far, and that something becomes blurry. As a kid my friends use to ask, "so what does that mean, you can't see me across the room?" Well, the answer is I can see your colors, I can see your presence, but I cannot make out your features; to me, you are just a blob, a fuzzy, blurry blob. However, what else that means is that even though I can't see clearly, I can still see. My eyes still work, just not at their best capacity, but the incredible thing about our innovative and ambitious society is that we have a means to fix poor eyesight: glasses, contacts, and laser eye surgery. What our society does not have is a way to fix complete blindness. After eating in Dans le noir? (which translates to 'In the dark?'), a restaurant where one eats in complete darkness served by waiters who are completely blind, I have found an incredible new appreciation for my eyesight and my ability to see unclearly.
In order to see, I wear contacts and occasionally glasses, but in Dans le noir? those means to see were of no help. This restaurant is one with a completely blind server staff working in complete darkness. The restaurant asks you to lock all of your belongings in the lockers provided as no phones or sources of light are allowed inside the dining area. When I arrived with my cousin and sister we were greeted by a hostess who sat us down and explained the menu and it's options; each of the four menu choices (chef's choice, seafood, meat, and vegetarian) were a surprise menu that could consist of exotic meats and you would choose the number of courses desired, as well as, your drinks for the evening. After ordering, the hostess brought us down a dimly lit hallway to a curtain where we met our server, Courtney. Courtney then told each of us to put our right hand on the right shoulder of the person in front of us, with her leading. She explained that we would enter through two sets of curtains before entering the dining room area, referred to as the Darkroom, and that it would get dark immediately.
Honestly, I'm not sure why I thought I would see a sliver of light or a hallway lit for easy access, but none of those things existed in the Darkroom. Inside we were brought to our table where Courtney carefully sat eat of us in our chairs and explained where our water glass and jug were located: straight forward from our left hand. She also explained that the customers are encouraged to pour the water themselves, a thought my family and I found humorous and slightly challenging. In a room with a complete absence of light, one must obviously use their other senses in order to function. Throughout the dinner I found using my fork and knife to be almost useless and too challenging, which meant I used my hands to eat a meal that otherwise would never have been eaten in the way it had. My cousin and sister mentioned feeling some anxiety at the start of the meal; my sister commented that having her eyes open, and being unable to see anything at all, even the hand basically touching her face, was almost too much to handle at first. Courtney then would bring us our courses; I had chosen the Chef's Choice which meant my meal could consist of a variety of seafood, exotic meats, and vegetables. I remember smelling my food and feeling it with my hands, I can't describe my first course much better than that it was slimy, probably some kind of seafood, and savory. Each meal following was different and each description was one tied to how it felt, smelled, and tasted. Some dishes I loved and others weren't my favorite, but all were enjoyable in this disorienting room which forced each of us to adapt to the environment we found ourselves in order to eat.
Eating in the complete and utter darkness is an opportunity I never thought I would have the chance to experience, but it was one with a lasting impression. I have never been more grateful for my poor eyesight. This experience was one I would happily do again, and recommend to anyone interested, but it is not one that I would like to live. Having to remember where you placed your water, trying to figure out what foods were tasted, and the sensation of one's eyes being open yet seeing nothing was one that truly made me appreciate my ability to see. This beautiful, complex world in which we live with all of its colors, incredible views, and unique places are one that I feel many seeing people take for granted as it is perceived completely differently from someone who is blind. They will never truly understand your favorite color. Your favorite poster, view, or flower is one they will never be able to see. A room is defined by its space and size, a view by its sounds, and a flower by its smell. These experiences and moments shared between seeing and blind people might be similar, but the perception is drastically different. This single dinner opened my eyes to how blessed I am for the poor eyesight, an inconvenience that I have often compared to as being "basically blind without contacts" when in reality I am not blind at all. This observation and reflection has changed my view on my simple comparison. This dinner has shown me how I must appreciate what I have, even if what I have is poor eyesight because some people don't even have that, and to ignorantly comment about someone else's disabilities is not okay. I am extremely grateful for this experience and the understanding and humility I have received from it, as well as, the wonderful meal I was able to enjoy with my family.