UNDERHEARD: Eating Out While Deafblind

If you are like me, you wonder how and among whom the restaurant custom started. The idea of eating out in a place humming with activity, where all sound seems to merge into a full-on roar at times and you are left at the mercy of the wave as you, hopefully, enjoy some good food.

And of course before continuing, I fell down a rabbit hole and discovered, via a website on The History of Restaurants that they were supposedly started in France in 1765. I cannot attest to the veracity of this story, and wonder if some other culture might also lay claim to their origins. Anyhow, it’s good food for thought.

However they started restaurants are a venerated tradition of U.S. holidays and continue to bounce back after the dark days of Covid. Well, sort of. I accompanied my wife, her parents, sisters, and my niece and nephew by marriage to Red Lobster. That particular establishment does not seem to be faring as well, with many having gone into temporary closure and the business as a whole in bankruptcy. I guess they served too many shrimp.

We went to celebrate Father’s Day on Saturday, as is usual for us. It’s often less crowded on this day than if we wait till the day of, though going to eat at Fullers, a delicious local (to Fayetteville, N.C.) eaterie that serves just about everything Southern you can think of for Mother’s Day on the Saturday before, the place was brimming. I joked that it felt like someone was drilling a hole in my brain, because there’s just no really good setting on my hearing aids to help me handle such ruckous. But I made it through, as I always do.

Red Lobster, by contrast, was relatively quiet. We arrived at just prior to 2:00 and departed just after 4:30. I conversed some with those in my immediate vacinity, and ate my fill.

Ok first I had one of those delicious cheese biscuits, which according to my last doctor’s visit I don’t really eed to be eating. But hey, I offset that with a side salad. When I chose to order that salad, I expected to get basically a bowl of lettuce with bleu cheese dressing (another of my guilty pleasures). But actually it was loaded. Little flecks of meat, another kind of cheese (I’m not food afficianado, though I did apply to a food magazine as editor and they told me my resume was good once), croutons, and other stuff. Hey, my wife and I joke that my food critique is as follows: Real good, Good, Ok, not good, nasty! So there you go. Anyway, I had to stop eating before I became full off just that serving.

As we broke bread, talking about work, home, and life, the main course arrived. As I had on my previous Red Lobster visit, I’ve only eaten there twice if you can believe that, I had stuffed flounder (real good) with some kind of seafood sauce) and fries. I decided to walk on the wild side and went for a glass of mango lemonade, (good, I guess)? I don’t eat a whole lot of seafood, but I suppose it can be good on occasion, and I know it’s generally healthy as well.

The last sort of interesting thing I want to think about as a blind person is how we handle visiting the restroom. I needed to go before hitting the road, and it just made me think about my general strategy for finding what I need to find in there. When I enter through the swinging door, I immediately move toward the right wall and make my way around in a counterclockwise direction. This is because, at least in most of the men’s rooms I’ve seen, the sinks to wash hands are just to the left of the entrance with toilets in front. If I move in that direction, I usually manage to locate a stall, exit it, and get to the sink without any embarrassing mishaps. This time? Well, it was sort of strange as I did bounce off of someone as I made my way to the sink. Naturally, he then began providing assistance. It didn’t go completely sideways at least.

So there you have it, a little look into my mind as I work to negotiate the social norms that surround a typical holiday in my family. I enjoy it mostly, and by this point I know that most of the concerned parties know about my challenges and do not think any less of me. But sometimes having these hearing problems can be a struggle. Like when I find myself on a paratransit vehicle with a new driver who loves to talk, but I can’t comprehend him over the engines, as happened recently. I’ve learned though that the best, and really only, thing I can do is make the other person aware of this and take it as it is. More of my shenanigans as the summer time unfolds.

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