Blind for two hours. Imagine a lifetime.
Imagine suddenly losing your sight. It's so disorienting it's overwhelming. Last night I invited Jerry Agar, his wife Ann and a half dozen of my friends to attend the Blind Sailing Canada fundraiser at O Noire Restaurant in downtown Toronto. The experience simulates being completely blind and nothing could prepare you for it. We're not talking shadows. We are talking about bleak, impenetrable darkness in a room you never see, not even knowing what the table looks like, how far away the next guests are, what's on your dinner plate and if your server is standing right behind you. Oh and, the servers are genuinely blind.
Maybe I'm a bit of a control freak but I can tell you it's not really an adventure; it can be vaguely alarming. You are lead into a holding room with your hand on the left shoulder of the person in front of you. Your server leads you into a pitch black room and places your had on a chair back. You are served three courses and you have to eat them without any visual cues. Every task you would normally do by reflex and instinct is suddenly a challenge. You can't see what's on your plate. So you have to feel it. And if you drop your napkin on the floor, forget it. The server misses you, you better be prepared to shout out his name.
Two guys we didn't know joined our table after we had been seated. Matt Morrow from Courage Canada a hockey program for visually impaired kids and Mark Demontis a visually impaired hockey player. When you meet someone you can't see you have nothing but the voice to go by to figure out what they may look like. And then you realise it doesn't really matter what they look like. Although my friend Craig, who organized the evening and is blind always asks me if the women he meets are hot so I guess it still matters to some degree.
At the end of the meal they form the conga line all over again and lead you out into the lobby. The light makes you squint and you appreciate that for more than a dozen of the folks you dined with still can't see. Two hours was all we had to put up with.
If you can, it's would be great to go to the Sailing Canada website and make a donation. Thanks to the Trillium Foundation they will have two beautiful new sailing boats this summer but they need some extra cash to get them here and in shape.
Oh and, Jerry and I spent two hours in the dark and no-one was groped or stabbed.