Dining with a disability
Is this OK for you? says my friend Gerda. She pulls out a seat at the restaurant table.
It's a bit dark, I reply.
Is there anywhere else with better lighting?
Oh! I am so sorry! says Gerda.
I forgot. You know what my brain is like these days! How about over there near the window?
Lighting is always a problem with for people with vision loss. Too little light and it's hard to see anything at all. Too much can also have the same effect.
Once seated, I quickly fumble around the table to see where everything is. I am careful in case I knock over a wine glass. I find the menu after rearranging the tableware into the safest possible position. It's in fairly large print. With the help of my magnifier I manage to read it.
Don't choose anything with seafood, laughs Gerda.
Remember last time?
How could I forget? It was a very yummy seafood risotto. It had all the trimmings, including the shells. I'm not sure how many shells I almost choked on.
A lot to consider
There is a lot to consider when ordering food. My vision doesn't allow me to see all the food on the plate at one time. I have to examine what is where at almost point-blank range. Then I must remember where everything is.
Cutting food is also quite difficult. When eating, I cannot see the parts I have cut and the parts I haven't. While lifting the food to my mouth, sometimes I don't realise there is a piece of uncut meat dangling from the fork. This can be rather embarrassing. It's especially embarrassing if it falls off down the front of my nice clean top. Pastas are usually the easiest to eat. Pasta also gives me an excuse to tuck a serviette under my chin and lean right over the plate. So today, pasta it is.
The table is set with a crisp clean white tablecloth. I decide to order a white wine. A white wine spill could go unnoticed. A red spill would be disastrous.
Incoming drink on your left, says Gerda.
Gerda has learnt some not-so-obvious little strategies to help me. My disability doesn't allow me the luxury to see what is happening around me. This also means I often don't see the waiter coming to the table. I remember one time I moved my arm just as the waiter put my food down. Unfortunately, my dinner ended up all over the place. It was so embarrassing. I also had to wait for another meal while everyone else ate. Gerda and I have learnt that quaint little dining strategies save embarrassment and allow me to eat with everyone else.
We also avoid buffets and smorgasbords. It is far too stressful trying to see what is on offer. It is also hard trying to balance a plate of food and dodge people I cannot see. Buffet dining can quickly turn a lovely day out into a nightmare.
Today we have chosen well. There is enough light, good food and excellent table service. Of course, I also enjoy the great company.
How about sweets? says Gerda.
Why not? I reply.
And another glass of wine won't go astray, either.