Last night's Boulder Blind Cafe raised awareness and funds
Musician and activist Brian Rocheleau started his Boulder Blind Cafe series last February; since then, he's put on four dinners (three in Boulder, one in Portland, Oregon), with a fourth scheduled for Austin, Texas.
Last night was the start of the third round of the Boulder Blind Cafe (it repeats tonight, but both meals are sold out), and the show was definitely an experience -- both in dining and in the challenges visually impaired people deal with every day.
At 7:30 p.m., diners began filing in the doors of the First Congregational Church, where they were given a number ranging from one to the mid-twenties, then asked to find the corresponding number in the church basement lobby/hallway, where we were to stand with the group of people we would be dining (blindly) with. But before we did, we got a short spiel: We would be in the dark for about two hours, so we should use the bathroom before going inside. It would be very dark in the dining room, and cell phones and any other object that could create the slightest amount of light were to be turned off or left behind. If we needed help or had to leave for any reason, we were not to get up and try to find the exits on our own -- instead, we were to ask one of the visually impaired servers to escort us to the exit.
Diners were also given a sheet of paper with another synopsis of instructions. "Please do NOT bring any light into the darkness! TURN YOUR CELL PHONE OFF!" read Golden Rule #1. And "When you hear the Tibetan Singing Bowl ring three times ... it's time to be absolutely SILENT!" read Golden Rule #2.
There were six of us at our table, and we were one of the last groups to enter the dining room -- or at least it seemed that way. Because first, we were given yet another spiel: The meal was vegan and gluten-free. There were three dishes on the table; we were to figure out how to serve ourselves and would need to communicate with our table-mates in order to do so. Our guide to our table was a visually impaired gentleman who instructed us to line up, place our hands on the shoulder of the person in front of us, and not let go until we reached the table.
We wound through a double-hallway that got increasingly dark as we walked through it, and by the time we lifted the piece of fabric covering the doorway to the dining room, you could not see your hand in front of your face.
We made our way to the table -- an act that required quite a bit of communication. Not only was it pitch black in the room, but it was loud; diners were talking about the food and where it was on the tables, and the darkness seemed to amplify the sound. After many stops and starts, we finally made it to Table 14, completely disoriented and ready to sit down.