Life Matters

Into the darkness

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I attended an event the other evening where the purpose was to plunge us into darkness. Because we are not too far from Halloween, visions of Freddy Kruger or Michael Myers coming at me with a machete DID cross my mind. However, this occasion was to practice dining in the dark in order to get a taste of what it is like for a person who is blind to eat a meal.

Sponsored by the Greater Warwick Lions Club, this immersion experience became quite intense for me. Before we started eating, club president Heather Schey gave out several pointers. “Use a roll as a ‘pusher.’ You can push the rice onto your fork with it instead of the rice ending up on the table. Also, when reaching for your glass, do not just reach out open hand or it will most likely be knocked over.” Easy for her to say, she’d been utilizing this style of eating for more than 20 years!

Putting a blindfold on, I was thrust into total darkness. I didn’t even cheat and leave a little space at the bottom for some light to filter in. I carefully felt for my napkin and put it in my lap. Taking a deep breath, I “dug right in,” so to speak. My meal, fortunately, was manicotti. Using my knife, the meal was sliced into what I assumed were bite sized pieces. My fork carefully stabbed into the plate, and piece-by-piece it was brought to my mouth. There were times when my fork was empty and I embarrassingly bit into the fork, but most of the time something to eat was available. One time, a whole, uncut roll of manicotti was attached to the fork and I felt myself slurping it up for eternity, having difficulty swallowing such a big mouthful. (I could see the news now; “Woman dies choking on manicotti.”) I was fortunate that my chosen meal was not the fish, as several of the diners with that meal ended up eating the lemon slice!

Piece by piece, I began to get the hang of it, right up until a surprise green bean stabbed me in the nose. Green beans? Who said there would be green beans?

I displayed extraordinary skills in getting my drinks (although, of course, they had been strategically placed in easy to reach spots.) Just finding the glass and sipping on the straw was a victory.

In discussing the activity afterwards, several participants mentioned that their sense of hearing improved, became more alert. For me, any improved hearing was drowned out by my heartbeat that seemed louder than any drum. It was just my pounding heart, the darkness, and I.

This special awareness dinner was also an awards dinner honoring the Ocean State Center for Independent Living’s Executive Director, Lorna Ricci. Her 31 years of tireless advocacy and provision of programs for not just people who are blind, but people who have any type of physical disability is extraordinary. Also honored were two members of the Rhode Island Lions Sight Foundation, Ken Barthelemy and Paul Isenberg who have provided recreational opportunities for individuals who are blind and free eye exams and eyeglasses for those without medical coverage.

Thank you to the Greater Warwick Lions Club for providing this experience for all. I did truly enjoy it, up until another attendee at my table pointed at me, started laughed, and told everyone how it was soooooo funny that I had a whole manicotti hanging down from my mouth and how it was so comical to see me slurping it up. She must have cheated and peaked out of her blindfold.

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