WRAL Nights of Lights: Light Show from a Blind Man’s Perspective

And FINALLY! We find ourselves in the last, cold, bleak month of 2020. I hope it’s the toughest year any of us experience for a long time, as nothing has come close to matching it that I have ever known.

With this month comes your typical holiday celebrations, most of which are scaled down if they exist at all. For instance, my employer, from which I am to take off for the next two weeks due to lack of product via COVID-related shipping delays, has decided they won’t even bother trying to stage a holiday party. Instead, they’ve upped our usual $50 Walmart gift cards to $65 ones. We will appreciate that, once it arrives by mail sometime this coming week. I knew that I’d likely need to save the cushion gained during enhanced unemployment payments, so I should be ok for these weeks off. I know there are so many who are not though, and I feel bad for that.

Anyhow, even as individuals try to come up with some way to make the season at least a little festive, cities and their news outlets are doing the same. Here in the Raleigh-Durham metro area, WRAL created what they called the WRAL Nights of Lights. This is an intricate, 1.3-mile stretch within Dorothea Dix Park, located in Raleigh not too far from downtown. Each car is charged $15 to enter the field, and the theory was that people should arrive ten minutes prior to their time slot and roll through in 30 minutes. Only this didn’t quite work out as planned, as the 500 cars per time slot that were allowed led to traffic jams that, especially in the first days, resulted in 3-hour long waits and cancellations.

My wife and our family had decided that we would Attempt to go on Saturday, which is fortunate as they had ironed out some of the kinks by then. We stopped at Snoopy’s, a (I think) relatively small chain of restaurants specializing in good hot dogs and even better crinkle-cut fries, to pick up a portable dinner. My wife and I were in the lead vehicle, with her mother and two of her sisters trailing. We were due to go through at 6:30, and actually entered the long line around 6:20. As we inched forward over the next hour and 20 minutes or so, we enjoyed a playlist of top songs from 2020, music we would normally have consumed while traveling but were not able to partake of this year. I called this our travels to nowhere. With snappy conversation and the food, the wait was actually enjoyable. Heck, we were just glad to be out of the house for a change.

We finally reached the point of entry, where she had both tickets scanned at once. This was why we needed the vehicles to remain in proximity, otherwise we could have cut in from another street as other motorists had done, shortening wait times to only about 5 minutes. But, it was all good.

Naturally, one might ask what a blind man gets from a light show. I wondered if there would be any tactile elements for me to take in, and surprisingly there was one: fake snow. I stuck my hand out of the window and felt what was more like water than anything spraying me as it blew by. Of course, given that we were not at freezing temperature the stuff would not stick around for any amount of time. It was cool, I suppose. (There had been the possibility of a White Christmas in the forecasts few days ago, but looking at it now that possibility seems to have dried up. In this year? Why not!)

Other than that bit of fun, there were of course lots of lights. She saw a giant frosty the snowman and reindeer, as well as elves, penguins, and other cold weather pieces. We listened to a little Christmas music while rolling through, but both of us can only really handle that in small doses. While there was little for me to take in, I still enjoy other people’s happiness. Therefore the experience was worthwhile for me.

I don’t know what kinds of fun you have planned for the month of December, but I hope you are able to find some safe way to celebrate. And more than anything, I hope that we will soon start to see the end of this raging pandemic and keep its lessons close. Even as we rolled out of the event, there was signage reminding us to stay at least six feet apart, mask up, and wash hands. So sadly everything has been touched by this. I hope that you and yours are not, or are only slightly, affected.

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