Seeing it Your Way

A couple of days ago a friend of mine invited me out to Lunch last minute. She’s always to be relied on to pick a good place to eat. Thursday was no exception.

The choice was not an easy one. Should we go for a starter as well as a main course? What was the difference between the kind of chicken we normally eat and a black one? Should we try something with truffle? Should I be really self disciplined and stick with lettuce salad?

We had just got to the point when we thought we knew, but were giving the menu one last check. I normally get my friends to read the menu to me but I had my reading eye pressed to the page. When I say pressed, the right side of my nose was flat against the surface of the menu. It might not look comfortable but it gets the job done.

“Madam,” a voice said. “I have something for you.”

“Oh good,” I thought, imagining some delicacy to tickle my palate. How wrong I was. I looked up to find the suited restaurant manager standing next to me proffering a silver salver on which was laid out a folded white linen napkin. Nestling in the folds of the napkin were four pairs of glasses.

“No thank you,” I said and carried on reading.

“But madam, this will help you if you have forgotten your glasses.”

“No thank you,” I said, returning to my menu.

No sooner had I done so than I became gripped by a regret at my lack of manners. My friend launched in to fill the awkward space I’d left. “She’s blind as a bat. Beyond glasses. I wouldn’t bother if I were you.” We’re life long friends which gives her exemption from the normal rules of sighted people describing me in these terms.

“You were really rude to him,” she said.” You had better make up for it and show a little interest in where the chicken comes from. He was trying to be helpful,” she hissed.

“If you looked at people sideways and carried your white stick he’d know you couldn’t see. On second thoughts, probably just as well you didn’t or you might have hit him with it, poor man.”

Four pairs of glasses bought in the chemist would probably meet the needs of most people who’d forgotten their specs, so proffering help was the most normal thing in the world. It was probably born out of an ethos of ultra customer service that should have just about covered it. What they couldn’t muster was a large print menu. Not even a trip to the photocopier would apparently make that possible.

Sometimes, vision is a two-way thing. Not everyone can imagine that there are really people who see so little, or nothing at all, who are out in the world and eating. Not all of us who are doing the eating can imagine why it’s not possible to produce a large print menu or that glasses served on a silver salver is meant to be a kindness not an annoyance.

On a day when a fellow customer in the supermarket had already told me how hilarious I looked when reading a price label, it was hard not to take a swipe. I could have done better.

People are people. Maybe we all have our limitations. Black chicken, it turns out, is still chicken.

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