Dinner In the Dark: Service But No Light

Tonight I had the intriguing experience of dark dining at a blackout restaurant. The idea behind Blackout restaurants is that you eat in total darkness. You arrive, order your food, and then are taken, in total darkness, to your table and eat with no light whatsoever. Blind waiters help you there, but from then on it is without assistance. My expectation was that this was going to be wholly unsettling, with probably a lot of knocking things slightly, or majorly, and laughing, but with a sweet relief once I can regain my sight.


What I did not expect from going to dinner was the sheer terror that bubbles up from some place deep within after about 20 seconds in the pitch black. When the door behind you shuts and you stand there in the deepest blackness, you think to yourself that you'll be fine. That it won't be too bad. And then you begin to feel this panic. The need to run back through the door you just came through and return to light. After awhile it subsided, but that initial burst of terror shook me a bit at just how vulnerable it felt to have my eyes taken away.


When the door closed it turned into the darkest black that I've ever been in. My eyes were wide open the entire meal and I only saw one flash of light from the tiny lightbulb on a waiter's walky talky. It was horrifying. Walking through the room, hands on the shoulders of the person in front of me and the waiter at the front, in a strange conga line moving towards the table. The uncomfortableness and the nervousness subsided however, and things livened up as we sat down and went about learning the layout of the table in front of us. We poured water, found the bread baskets near us, with only minimal fingers in the sauce, and eventually got our food. The meal passed unexpectedly uneventfully. There were some slips with food and with water, but something not that unusual considering the circumstances.


What was odd were small, strange things. The odd feeling from the lip of my glass, the movement of voices across the room, the smell from the various dishes that wafted across from different directions without warning or context. The thing that most stood out were the crumbs on the table cloth during the meal. There was bread served, and it was quite interesting after we all took some from the baskets, to run my hands over my place in front of me and feel those dozens of tiny particles roll underneath. How many times have I never noticed something like that, simply because I wouldn't have looked close enough to see?


As the meal wore on, my mind began to drift, sitting there in the dark, so detached from the rest of the room that despite the noise of dozens of voices, I heard none of them. I started to think about this and that, and each time I did I realized I was conjuring images of those things like I would if my eyes were closed, despite the fact that they were wide open the entire time. In that darkness, with my eyes wide open, I started a little mental exercise, how well could I remember my favorite places to be in? The most amazing natural wonders I've seen? The faces of the people that were closest to me? It's surprising what things are easy to conjure up in your mind's eye, and what things are impossible to even form general images of, despite the fact that you could describe them perfectly.


We interpret so much of our world through sight. I honestly couldn't say how well I'd react if it were taken from me. One of my greatest passions are the sweeping vistas that come from hours, or even days, of treacherous hiking, climbing, and mountaineering. Those moments when the world opens up and the view extends beyond even the horizon, freeing up the constriction that life brings every moment the borders of your life seem to be shrinking in too close. Trying to envision all of those places, where the ground falls away and the edge of the world goes beyond sight, I was able to envision many in such detail, recalled from those cold morning where the piercing dawn seared them into my mind.


I felt my eyes get a little wet with the idea that new sights such as those could be taken from me so easily. That tomorrow might be the last day I would ever be able to see those integral pieces of my mind. What's worse is that I know that there are people that will never see as many as I have in their entire life, as I have in my brief flash in the pan. People see incredible sights on their phones through instagram, facebook, and whatever else and think, "Wow, I want to go somewhere like that." They create excuses not to go to those places, and not to experience them. If my travels have taught me anything, it's this: There is tremendous beauty, worthy of our awe and worthy of our time and hard work to experience. And it's disrespectful to the people who will never be able to. When you reach a new height, and see an amazing sight, you're not just doing it for you. You're doing it for everyone that will come after and be inspired by you.


Go out and see the world. You don't have to go across the world, heck, you don't even have to leave your own state. But explore. See. Do. You won't regret it, and you will if you don't.


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