I never quite know where a blog post will take me. I am particularly talking about blog posts I write, as opposed to the ones I read. I get an idea in my head. I put pen to paper, literally scribing what looks like hieroglyphics to some, as my handwriting is not something I get compliments for. I then type, on my computer and that in itself is version one of editing. What was written on paper is not what ends up on the first version of the typed story. I feel my way around, as I type and meander. I finish typing and print, read, and edit again with pencil in hand. Sometimes the editing is gentle tweaks, and sometimes it’s brutal culling that materially changes the story.
I can’t say I see the road to where I’m going, but I have a sense of what the destination is that I want to get to. I don’t quite know what journey you have though as a reader. How did you find the blog post? What made you click through? What made you read past the first couple of sentences? What keeps you reading on? I assume you are reading, and hence I like using pictures in my blogs, to interrupt your eyes from the monotony of words on the screen. Not once, did I picture a reader, who is visually impaired or blind, who is receiving this very blog post in a different way. It could be received as simply as someone reading it to you, or some complex translation software that turns my written words into something you can decipher.
I visited the Cape Town Society For The Blind earlier this week. I was with my colleagues, and it was part of a 3 day course we were on, funded by the bank. We met in the showroom, which is situated in Salt River, and walked around first, admiring the hand crafted cane furniture that I immediately assumed was made by blind people. I say assumed, because the standard of the work to my eye was impeccable, and so my guess was this was a statement of intention being made that I needed to first see before being told about what the Cape Town Society for the blind does. We were then taken through a 6 minute video, a succinct positioning giving the history of the non-profit organisation and their relentless work today in empowering blind people and the visually impaired. For every adversity in South Africa, I always find there is more than one Angel. We need to hang on to these Angels, and do our bit to help them succeed in their mission. The Cape Town Society for the blind is one of those Angels.
The climax, was after the marketing experience, which I saw in the showroom. Reality struck when the Dinner In The Dark concept I was about to experience, was explained. I could feel my inner discomfort as it was explained to us that we would have a dining experience, but in total darkness. “I do not like dark spaces, and they seem to emphasise that it is pitch black, so how will I feel being in the dark through supper?” I asked myself. My heart rate had certainly changed enough for me to notice without any use of a fancy fitness device.
My concern was about feeling claustrophobic, as if I could not see what was before me, it’s as good as the walls closing in on me. Geraldine, a colleague of mine, expressed her concern to this very problem, as she was ‘claustrophobic’. She was advised that should she start getting uncomfortable, she could raise the alarm and they would safely escort her out of the dining room. That gave me comfort. There was an exit strategy. I just hoped I wouldn’t be the one to pull the emergency exit lever!
We had been given disposable aprons to wear over our clothing. I didn’t understand why at the time, but while I was not instructed to wear mine, I did, as did everybody else. Our dining experience would be upstairs, relative to the showroom. As we headed outside, towards the staircase, I saw the sign for the toilets. I decided to quickly dash into the men’s room. There was no telling how long I was going to be in the dark for, and I did not want an embarrassing shout out for help, purely for the reason of going to relieve myself.
The simple instruction before we entered the dining room was for us to all close our eyes. We would walk in, a single file line, and one arm extended in front of you, resting on the shoulder of the person in front of you. The single line train would be lead to our dining table. I’m not sure who the head of the train was, but I can say with certainty that it was one of our hosts, and not one of my colleagues.
It was early evening, a little after 19h00, and a windy Cape Town day. So while it was still dusk, the winds in Salt River were rampant, evoking scenes from horror movies to the mind and one’s fear of ghosts. I could sense the change of light from the dusk while outside, to darkness in the room. My eyelids felt like they had less work to do in keeping the light out (for my eyes). “Can I open my eyes?” I asked, knowing full well I had been told that the message would be given when it was time to open our eyes. “Not yet…”, came a polite female voice. I had no clue where she was, but she heard me through the noise, and I heard her.
Some of my colleagues had gone silent. Some just on the edge of rowdy, and probably talking to give a level of comfort that we were still present and get the signal that we were not alone. Well at least that’s why I felt obliged to open my mouth, uttering questions and listening for feedback. I’m glad I didn’t open my eyes. At this stage, it is tempting to open your eyes, but I chose to trust the process. After all, if I cheated and opened my eyes then, I would have only been robbing myself of the experience still to come.
I was guided to sit down, my hands led to a chair to touch. After I sat, I was still trying to measure my boundaries on the table. We were also told to be careful as we had wine glasses on the table, as well as four ‘shooter’ glasses filled with different types of wine to taste and inform what we wanted to drink. There were two reds and two white wines. My waiter (I later found out his name was Andre) put a plate in front of me, and again guided my hands to the knife and fork next to the plate. He had warned me that he was putting the plate of food down. We had our eyes open, after receiving permission.
The dinner experience was phenomenal. The food was lovely, and I managed to eat my entire main course in the dark. No spoiler alert could spare your experience of what comes next, so to be fair to you, I will leave that for you to find out yourself when you are next in Cape Town. They are open to the public for this Dinner in the Dark experience, only they require that you book in a group of minimum 12 people. If you are not going to try the dining experience, at least support them with fundrasing. All I can share about my Dinner in the Dark experience was my first words to Andre, our waiter. I couldn’t see a thing, and I could hear Andre, advising and guiding those at my table. “How do you see in this darkness?” I asked. “Have you got infra red goggles on or something?”.