Most of the time, I can handle any situation in which I find myself. I have developed fairly good coping skills to avoid drawing attention to the fact that I have low vision. One of the places that it is most difficult for me to “fake” that I can see is in restaurants. The lighting is usually dim. The menus are often written in small, fancy, unreadable type. There are usually other diners within earshot of our table. Sometimes, I feel like I am at war with the restaurant and I need to develop a good battle plan in order to make it through the meal. Last night, John and I went out to dinner with a good friend at a really, really nice restaurant – the kind where I most definitely do NOT want to embarrass myself or draw attention to myself.
We sat at our table in this beautiful restaurant and the waiter handed me a menu. I opened it and, as I feared, I could not read one word on the menu. In my purse, I carry a little light-up magnifying glass that I can use in low light. I could have pulled it out and used it, but I just didn’t want to. So, I decided to use a couple of other skills that I have learned. The waiter told us the specials. I find that this is often a good way to choose a meal without needing to read the menu. (At restaurants where the waiter does not suggest a special, I often ask what he or she recommends or what is his favorite dish.) As it happened, one of the specials sounded wonderful, so I was pretty sure that I was going to order it.
Just as a backup, I use my husband John’s knowledge of me and the type of food I enjoy. John is perfectly willing to read me an entire menu. Sometimes (like last night) this feels awkward and inappropriate to me. Instead, I like to ask him what he thinks looks good on the menu. He then describes a couple of items that he thinks I would like. Last night, between the specials suggested by the waiter and the menu items described by John, I knew I could make a good choice.
I ordered a very delicious salmon dish, one of the specials described by the waiter. It was heavenly. I may have missed knowing all of the items available on the menu, but I felt very comfortable with my choice and my method of choosing. I like a choice such as salmon because it is easy to eat. I usually avoid messy or hard to cut food at restaurants. In dim light, it can be hard to handle cutting up steak or dealing with foods (poultry or fish) that have a lot of bones to work around. I try to keep it simple. My salmon did come garnished with a few long, thin onion straws that were difficult to see how to manage. I just did the best I could with them, trying not to drop them in my lap.
At the end of the meal, we ordered coffee. Along with our coffee, the waiter brought a tray filled with little containers. I was at a loss to know what they all held. Because the tray was placed near our friend, he took the opportunity to describe each of the treats on the tray: cream, raw sugar, cinnamon sticks, whipped cream, rock sugar sticks, chocolate shavings. I did not feel awkward about needing them described. It seemed just like he was exclaiming about each item he found on the tray. I think he actually enjoyed giving me a rundown on the treats available as we added our choices to our cups.
The evening was totally wonderful. I think the waiter and other diners were unaware of my visual impairment. It’s not that I am ashamed of it. I just did not want it to become the focus of conversation for the evening. I wanted us to be able to relax and have great conversation with a great friend. And that is just what we were able to do. The restaurant was a tough opponent, but I won.