Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Taking on the Bistro

I left you in the heart of downtown Erie in the middle of Roar to the Shore. I was blindfolded and seeking out a specific restaurant to further test my "Acclimation to Blindness" skills by eating a meal when a tough Motorcycle Mama lit into me for tapping her motorbike with my cane. If you remember, our training fell on one of the craziest days of summer. Downtown Erie was holding a Block Party, which meant a lot more clutter on the sidewalks, which turned the task into a much more challenging task for little ol' blindfolded ME!

"I don't think the restaurant is very far off, if I remember correctly," Chet warned.

That was my cue to ask for the address. So I stopped and turned to the first voice I heard, "What is the address here?" The speaker dutifully supplied it, and Chet clapped his hands in excitement, "As I figured. We're not far from our destination!" He was delighted. How did he figure these things out? He turned to me, "We need to get to Number 2027. We are on the correct street, right?"

"Yes," I affirmed.

"Will we stay on this side of the street or cross it? And then, which direction will we head?"

"We need to cross the street and go north."

"We'll cross Seventh from the northeast to the northwest corner," he corrected.

"Oh! Yeah!" I had no idea anymore or even that we were at a corner.

"Good!... After you!" Chet sounded very pleased.

I wanted to peek very badly to make sure I was going right because I had to lead us across the street. Chet was on my heels so I had to listen for the traffic and could not cheat! The way sounded clear so I gave Chet the go-ahead. He listened for just a moment to verify, and we were off!

I could feel a wide cement stairway and climbed five steps, felt for a door handle, and pulled. We were inside a building.

I asked for the address. "Yep, this is it! Let's go in!" Was I ready for this?

Entering the restaurant was a breeze. "My name's Dan and I'll be your waiter for the afternoon," he said as he took me by the arm, and gently escorted me to a round table on the left-hand side of the room. What a relief after all the obstacles outdoors! I folded up my cane and took a deep breath while he read the menu to us.

I could tell by the plush carpet, the silence surrounding us and the impeccable manners of the waiter that we had chosen an upscale bistro for our experiment.

Chet seemed put out temporarily that the waiter had escorted me, "Much better for you to have found the seat on your own...but no matter," he resigned himself, plotting for me to find my own way out, no doubt!


"Ah," I bit my lip, "I'll have a cup of ... expresso," (I am not a coffee drinker but the surroundings called for something more elegant than my usual glass of water).

I chose some messy crepe, ice-creamy, sliced-banana, chocolate-syrupy type dessert. I am going out on a limb here. If I have to be blindfolded, I might as well make it worth my trouble. I’m not going to play it safe with a mere pudding you just have to scoop out with a spoon!

I could hear the waiter pouring water into what I discovered to be long-stemmed glasses a few minutes later. When I felt for the glass with my right hand, my fingers touched the cool condensation on the outside rim. I picked it up and took a sip. Refreshing!

"Madame, here is your turtle crepe. It is directly in front of you. Your fork is to the right of the plate.Your expresso is at 2:00." I had recently learned that the face of a clock is a good way for people to visualize where an object (usually food) is located in relation to them. This waiter knew his stuff!

I picked up the fork in one hand and knife with the other, and proceeded to cut the banana crepe. I unobtrusively snuck a finger to the plate to feel where the rim was. I didn't want it to slide off! Then I proceeded to cut and stab a piece of banana, swish it in the syrup and add the crepe to the fork. I lifted it to my mouth and took the bite. With the cloth napkin, I dabbed at my chin in case I missed my mark at all. We didn't talk much as I focused completely on mastering this task. When I finished, I felt for my cup of expresso. Oh lukewarm! Darn! I took too long to eat! Well, I can't figure out everything at once, now can I? Next time, I'll get it right...

The sunshine fell on my right side from the sunny window next to me. Were my other senses becoming more heightened, I wondered? Well, anyone can feel the sun coming through the window!

Chet and I chatted about the day's outing casually. I began to feel a little giddy from the experience...
or was that the expresso?! I chided myself, "Calm down, girl!"

Now, how would I pay? I asked the waiter to read me the bill. Then I felt for my bills. Which was the ten and which was the one? I asked the waiter, and later had him count back my change.

"Now if you want to be certain about your change, and keep your independence, pay attention to what I'm going to say next."

Chet then explained different ways of folding the various money denominations to distinguis
h them for greater independence. A whole lesson, contextualized. As a teacher, I know this is the very best kind of lesson one can receive.

The bistro was a smashing success! Although Dan had disappeared, I led the way out of the restaurant just fine, fumbling a bit by the door but with my head held high, and my confidence soaring even higher.

"Who was that waitress who helped direct me to the door?" I asked afterwards.

"No, she wasn't a waitress. She was standing outside the door. So I guess she was just attending the block party and making herself useful." Chet observed.

"Oh!" I thought she was a waitress. How did Chet figure out these things? My completely blind trainer was so in tune with people and his surroundings! I felt awed.

But the best thing about my day was the van was located just across the street! I could take my blindfold off!

Thank you, thank you, thank you God for getting me through this afternoon!

Chet's lessons are the key to my future independence.

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