I visited New York City in the dark. Yes, in total darkness. What an experience!
It was a rainy day, wet, windy and really cold like Manhattan often is in the winter. We had to get out of the elements, somewhere we could warm up and drip dry. “Look, there’s an awning and a line of people. Must be good, whatever it is.” That’s when we discovered BODIES and DIALOG IN THE DARK.
DIALOG IN THE DARK intrigued me because I’d been doing a class called “What’s it like to be blind?” and another called “Test your Senses”. And here at South Street Seaport, I paid my money and had no idea of what to expect. In groups of 10 we were sent into a little twilight room. All we had were white canes. A nice friendly voice, Frank Senior’s voice, could be heard in the darkening room. As the lights dimmed more we were told to follow his voice, and not to be afraid, he’d be with us on our excursion.
The security people would be following us with infra-red to be sure we didn’t stumble or hurt ourselves. One woman said she wanted to leave, but we convinced her that we were all in this together and nothing bad would happen. I was up front, one of the few native English speakers in the group apparently, and so I ventured into the dark, over the gravel, through the park, up the stairs and down a ramp as directed, and kept up a constant commentary with Frank, so he’d know where we were. All the while Frank’s voice could be heard. He talked to us, joked with us, encouraged us, and led us through what seemed like an obstacle course in the dark. It was warm with all those people, and my clothes were finally drying off.
The grocery store the best. I felt like I was a little kid again, except no one said “Don’t touch”. “Have you found the shelves yet?” we’d hear Frank say from behind us. And sure enough, we’d reach out and there was a shelf full of bags of rice or noodles, or boxes of…I don’t know what. We were told to handle everything. Oh, a small round can. “I’ve got a can of tuna. Or…it could be cat food!” The hour sped by as we continued our tour. We practiced crossing the street and getting onto public transportation.
When we reached our destination we were sent to a table to “meet” our guide as the lights slowly came on. Frank Senior told us he was a guide, and also a jazz singer. He’d been blind since birth, and had just directed us in the dark for an hour using his other senses.
When you get to New York City, be sure to go to DIALOG in the DARK. There are several great guides, but if you get Frank Senior tell him you’re from Spain and that Wendy sent you!