- Created on Tuesday, 08 May 2012 01:44
- Last Updated on Friday, 22 June 2012 04:57
Every so often an event called The Blind Café comes to town. My puppy club tries to send several pups to each event in Boulder for several reasons. The organizers of the event ask us to. The Blind Café donates some of the proceeds to our club, and it brings awareness to people. Guide Dogs do not spring forth fully formed and trained from Zeus’ head like Athena.
My involvement with this meal is usually limited to bringing a puppy or two to the pre-event for a half hour before dinner starts. I walk the puppy around, let people pet the pup, and answer questions. Then I leave. For the last Blind Café, I stayed.
Before the meal
Leon, the kids, the puppy, and I all drove up to Boulder. We arrived early so Bonita could do her job, which she did very well. There’s a big reception area, maybe about 400 square feet. People walk around and chit chat. Bonita received several pets, demonstrated some of her commands, and contained her wiggle tail well.
The room heated up with all the bodies, so Anna brought each of the dogs a bowl of water. The pups drank their bowls quickly.
The kids were excited about eating dinner in the dark. They occasionally like to get the white cane out, stick a hood over their heads, and walk around. This dinner seemed to be an extension of that curiosity.
When it was dinner time, we assembled by group. We were told that we’d go into the dark room and be guided to our chair. Once we sat in our chair, we’d find a table in front of us. On the table was a big plate, a smaller plate to the right, and a smaller plate to the left. A bottle of water was behind the big plate. Dipping olive oil and a loaf of bread were located in the center of the table.
Our blind host had us queue up and put one hand on the shoulder in front of us. He led us through a little maze and then into the dining room. We made it to our chairs without too much incident. Anna and Quinn, my human kids, were disconcerted and paused here and there to calm down. At one point Bonita seemed to find a friendly hand that gave her some pats. But finally we sat down.
I got up again as soon as everyone was seated. I scooched my chair and guided Bonita under the table. She took a bit of coaxing, probably because she couldn’t see anything. Dogs take their emotional cues from their humans, and since I was okay, Bonita was okay. But, she wasn’t anxious to move where she couldn’t see. Once I got her underneath the table, she was content. She’s a pro at being underneath tables.
A bunch of thoughts fleeted through my head as we walked in and sat down.
“Wow. I didn’t think they’d really be able to block all the light.” The room was completely black. Even after ten minutes, the room was completely black.
“Getting about without vision would be difficult. I think pet ferrets, that move things, would make life trippy.”
“Why is this kid so clingy and attached to me like a leach?”
Anna soon told me, “Mommy, I don’t feel safe.” Shortly thereafter Quinn told me the same thing.
I convinced the kids to try to eat their food, and if they didn’t feel safe to keep a hand on Leon or I. I also suggested that Bonita was there and doesn’t mind pets.
I felt around for my fork, stabbed at the plate, and took a bit of something salad-y with a yummy dressing. Anna then complained that she couldn’t find her fork. I felt around for it. I think I petted some other people’s food while at it, but couldn’t find her fork. So, I told her to eat her cheese and I’d give her my fork when I was done.
I kept stabbing at my plate and found all sorts of interesting things. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have eaten most of these things if I could see them, so induced blindness might be a good way to get a person to eat their vegetables. I had some crunchy-like chip thing and later found out that it was a pickled beet. I think there might have been a potato salad-like dish, and maybe some dish with fruit in it. Almost everything tasted good. It tasted like Boulder food, which makes sense, since we were in Boulder.
The smaller plate to the right had a bunch of cheeses on it. I confess to spitting a couple of the cheeses out, but the ones I did eat were excellent.
The smaller plate to the left had desert on it. A little cup was filled with yogurt and honey and I also found a stick with fruit on it. I tried to dip my stick, but my fruit fell in. I gave up and dumped all the fruit in the cup, turned it upside down, and squeezed it into my mouth. It was sweet. Also on that desert plate was a popcorn ball made with almond butter. I don’t like nuts and I usually tell people I’m allergic just to be left alone. (I don’t care how yummy that death by chocolate brownie is. If it has a single nut in it, it’s a deal breaker. Most people can’t understand that, so I just tell them I’m allergic and they shut up.) I downed the popcorn ball and it was okay. I can’t say it was delicious since it was, after all, made with nuts. The half dozen nuts I found on the desert plate ended up in my son’s hand, along with the unidentified candy wrapped in plastic. My son liked those a bunch. As it turned out, they are called cocomels, and they are caramel made with coconut.
The kids told me a couple more times through dinner that they didn’t feel safe and weren’t comfortable. I asked them if they were a little uncomfortable or a lot. They said a little, so I told them to deal.
The Poem and Q&A
Then, the entertainment started. First off was a poem. It was about being excused from reliability because of blindness. I promised myself to not cut anyone slack solely on the basis of a disability. I don’t think I had ever done that before, but I’d file it away as a “note to self.”
After the poem, we had a Q & A time. You could title that portion of the event, “All those ridiculous questions you wanted to ask blind people but are too embarrassed.” It was easy to ask, because you couldn’t see anyone and only the people that came with you would know your voice.
My daughter wanted to ask a question, but we never got the timing right. It’s not like raising your hand would work afterall.
Is it easier to be born blind or to go blind after you’ve had sight? The answer was they both suck. If you’re born blind, you don’t know what you’re missing, but you do know you’re missing something. If you had sight and lost it, you know what you’re missing.
Do you have any concept of colors? (That question was asked of the man who had been blind since birth.) He replied that the only way he has any idea of colors is if you take similar substances and shine light on them. He can tell if they’re different colors by how much warmth is radiated. He responded “red, because it is the warmest” to what’s your favorite color.
Other questions involved navigating new areas, getting around on buses, and the like.
I wanted to ask a question about visual floaters, but I didn’t get the timing right either.
My kids repeated their “I don’t feel safe” comments during the Q & A session.
The music started and my kids were worse.
Now, Leon enjoys music a couple orders of magnitude more than I do. (I like music, but I just like it. Leon feels and enjoys it.) I was getting tired of the stress emanating off my children, and I was developing a headache. So, I told Leon we’d wait in the hall and to enjoy the music. I lined the kids and dog up and tried to make my way back. I did manage to get out of my table area and then I don’t know where I was. I suspect I annoyed a few people so a nice lady offered to lead us out. She had me made a 180. I didn’t realize I was that far off. I guess my navigator skills are mediocre with or without vision.
As we made our way out, Bonita was borrowed. One lady’s guide dog is named Bonita, so she wanted to meet the other Bonita. My guide dog leader happened to be there and said she’d bring my pup back to me.
Anna realized she had the captive attention of her very own blind person, so she asked her question. “Can blind people have pets?” I’m not sure where that question came from. I mean, we raise Guide Dog puppies. If blind people have dogs, why wouldn’t they have other critters? But the nice lady told Anna about her kitty. “How do you clean up after your kitty?” “Well, he uses his litter box and I know where it is.” And then I of course chimed in, “And cat poop is gnarly and you can smell it from way off. That’d be easy to find.”
The nice lady asked my kids if they felt better. They said they were still a little anxious but were calming down. Then Anna went into her explanation of “it kind of makes sense that I didn’t feel safe. We did trade in our noses for sight.” “Oh, she did listen to that lecture,” I thought, happy that some information seeps into their little homeschooled skulls.
Overall, I think the Blind Café is an excellent experience. If the Blind Café comes to your town, you should totally go. I’m glad I had the experience. I now know that if I lost my sight my biggest problem would not be missing colors or finding my way around. My biggest problem would be I/O speed. Listening to books is much slower than reading them and listening to your computer is slower than reading stuff on the screen.
So you, an adult, if you get the opportunity, go. Should you take your kids? Anna is 11 and Quinn is almost 9. My kids are hyper-sensitive to changes around them. I certainly wouldn’t take a toddler, but I bet your average 2nd grader could handle it.