In the Dark

I’m on an airplane again.

I’m headed to New York for my friend Jake’s wedding, my second “friend wedding” ever.

I’m also aware that I am The Guy on the Airplane Working on his Laptop—this is usually another guy, not me, and I’m always extremely interested in what he’s doing. If I’m sitting next to The Guy on the Airplane Working on his Laptop, I’ll spend at least 20 cumulative minutes looking at the screen and reading about whatever work he’s doing. And it’s always a good time.

So what if the guy next to me is like me? And he’s reading this? How awkward is that?

And I’m especially concerned, because he is like me—he was the last person on the plane, which means he waited while all the silly people stood in line at the gate, knowing there was no importance to the order in which you board the plane. I was second to last.*

He brought with him about 4 newspapers, a book, The Economist, a water bottle, and a package of peanuts. I have with me The New York Times, a book, The Economist, a water bottle, and a package of almonds I bought at the gate. And, of course, my laptop. Like me, this man is neurotic, knows a cross-country flight is a commitment, wants to keep his options open, and secretly loves long flights.

When the flight attendant took drink orders, he ordered a coffee and a water. I sometimes order two drinks—again, options.

As the flight wore on, he gutlessly caved in to the whim of the all-powerful TV’s in front of us (JetBlue), and has read very little of his various materials. Two peas in a pod.

And so, it would be of no surprise to me if he were reading these very words I’m typing. Which is about as awkward as anything I can possibly imagine. And the fact that I just typed the last two sentences magnifies the awkwardness by exponential proportions.

So, for both of our sakes, I’ll move on.

I spent Thanksgiving week in Paris, visiting my sister, who’s studying there for the semester.

I’ve always heard that the French go on strike more than the rest of Europe combined. Never did I imagine that that fact would affect me. But for my entire time in Paris, the metro people were on strike, making it impossible to get anywhere. You could try to get a cab, but they were all full. You could walk, but it was cold and rainy all week. So that sucked.

And maybe that influenced my opinion, but in my limited experience of all three places, I like both Spain and Italy more than France. There I said it.

That said, there were two phenomenal highlights. On our second night, we were invited to the home of a short, fat, jolly, immensely French man, who cooked us a 12 course, homemade meal over a span of about 8 hours. Over those 8 hours, I consumed a Bloody Mary, bread and homemade tapenade, escargot, salad with homemade dressing, quiche, phenomenal steak, homemade fries, bread with about 6 different cheeses, 2 great wines, homemade ice cream, some 1912 cognac, a cigar, and 2 shots of Grey Goose. By the end, anytime anyone said anything whatsoever, everyone would burst out laughing. Quite possibly the best night of my life.

The other highlight happened on Thanksgiving night itself. Lindsay and I went to this restaurant called Dans Le Noir. Dans Le Noir is just like all other restaurants. Except one thing.

It’s pitch black.

Not dark. Not dim. PITCH black. And all the waiters are blind.

Upon entering the restaurant, we found ourselves in a dimly-lit room, where you put anything that sheds any light whatsoever (cell phones, watches, etc.) into a locker. Then they asked if we had any food allergies or anything we preferred not to eat. Then they introduced us to Charlotte, our blind waitress.

Charlotte took our arms and led us through a series of curtains, each one blocking out more and more light, until we entered the restaurant itself, where there was no light to speak of anywhere. You could wave your hand in front of your face and you’d see absolutely nothing.**

Charlotte walked us a little ways, and then she put my hand on something wooden and said something in French. Then she said the same thing to Lindsay. Then she left.
What the hell is going on? What did she just say? Where did she go?? "Lindsay???”

“I’m here,” said Lindsay. “I think she said that we’re at our table and we should sit down.”

So we sat down, carefully, and felt around. Silverware…four glasses…a napkin…a hand…a
hand?..."S-- sorry"...

After grabbing both the hand and later the thigh of the man at the next table, I refrained from reaching outside of a 18 inch radius for the rest of the night.

If you simply listened to the sounds, it sounded like a normal restaurant—a jumble of voices, the clinking of silverware and glasses, etc.

We were perplexed—how could anyone talk about anything other than the fact that it was pitch black? We spent the entire hour and a half talking about nothing else.

When the food came, I’d try to get something on my fork, and then get it to my mouth without stabbing myself in the eye with the fork or spilling on my lap. When I finally got a bite, I’d try to figure out what the hell I was eating. When we poured wine or water (we had two big bottles at the table), we’d have to put our finger in the glass to know when it was full.

It was, quite simply, one of the most bizarre experiences of my life.

Anyway, we finished up (towards the end, I discovered the fun of reaching across the table and grabbing my sister’s unexpecting face with my entire palm, which would make her gasp and retract her head), and Charlotte led us out to the same dimly-lit room, which now seemed like it was intensely bright.

And now, on this plane, I’ve noticed that the man to my left is reading the Economist. He seems to have, at least temporarily, defeated the TV’s. Similar-- yes. Identical-- I guess not.

*The one unfortunate downside to this obnoxiously logical practice is the spectacle you create when you have to search around for a place to fit your luggage in the overhead compartments—you have to move stuff sometimes, like to rearrange someone’s coat to clear space, and you know that someone on the plane is watching, thinking, “get your hands off my coat.”

**(the little crucifix is much cooler than 2 stars, but I don’t know how to type a little crucifix) While writing this sentence, the man across the aisle from me tapped the flight attendant on the shoulder to get her attention. Her entire body tensed up, as if he had put a tarantula on her shoulder. She turned around and said, quite curtly, “What?” This serves as further proof of my theory that being contacted physically for any reason is the number one flight attendant*** pet peeve.

***I used the term “stewardess” in a previous blog entry, and got an email from a stewardess explaining that they preferred not to be called stewardesses. So now I write, “flight attendant.” On one hand, the change of term is most likely a way of distancing from the old-fashioned chauvinistic images of the 1950’s stewardess. On the other hand, I only need my left hand to type the word “stewardesses,” which is about as fun as anything I can recall.


Anonymous said...

If I ever see you on a plane I'm gonna ask you if you're still with Nicole just for the fun of it.

K said...

Tim, I think you need to get out more :)

The restaurant sounded interesting. I imagine that the sensory experience (minus vision of course) was very striking.

Anonymous said...

Crucifix this is fun,and helps take
my mind off a tooth that fell apart
since your last entry.

This post has made me hungry though

frmr jhi ...

Anonymous said...

So ... so ... so ... what did you eat ... and were you wearing a food bib?

Unknown said...

words that you can type with just your left hand are incredibly satisfying. we should jointly publish a book of these words...

Anonymous said...

yeah...what did you eat? was the food good?

Anonymous said...

I particularly enjoyed reading this blog of yours. :)

Anonymous said...

I always enjoy reading your blogs. I've heard of that dark restaurant before but no real account like yours. Very interesting. Kudos

P.S. "Edward" can be typed very easily with your left hand. :-)

Anonymous said...

There was a CSI episode with a similar dark restaurant setting...

Nat said...

Of course the order of getting on a plane matters. I'm that person that likes to watch who is touching what of mine- but if you're one of the last people to get on the plane, you may just have to settle with the fact that your luggage or coat is going to be X amount of seats away. Therefore, you can't see your belongings and know who is doing what to it. Although for people like me who are typically thinking, "stop touching my shit," I'd rather see the people, than not. Ya know?

Anonymous said...

They actually have a restaurant here in NY, like that place in France...but I think it is like some kind of dating thing. A 'blind' date...hah.

:) Your entries are hilarious. Please update more!

Anonymous said...

and no, I'm not up reading and commenting on your entries @ 5:43 (NY time)- just to clarify that- I'm not THAT crazy.

Damn west coast time.

Anonymous said...

Noooes! I only read the ** now and now know the answer :(

Oh well. I still enjoy your blog. But now I'm really sad.

Sorry. A sixth person just got involved. *sheepish look*