Monday, December 22, 2008

Dialog in the Dark

On Saturday, we packed up the crew and headed to Kansas City. My mother-in-law was treating us to the wonderful Rockettes Show at the Sprint Center (more to come on that show soon). A few years ago we saw an exhibit in St. Louis called Titanic. It was truly remarkable. The KC Star included a recent article about a new exhibit called "Dialog in the Dark", produced by the same company that created Titanic.

My husband and I decided to run the premise of the show by our kids to see what they thought about touring it. If they seemed interested, we would go in the morning before the Rockettes show. They gave us the staring, puzzled, you-are-kind-of-strange look, which is a long way from "no way", so we ordered tickets.

The Dialog exhibit begins in a room like the one pictured above. My husband, my three kids and I all selected our canes and sat on our lighted cubes. We listened to a short audio tape that explained that the lights would be slowly dropped to "off". The soothing female voice added that many fear the dark, but that this was unneccessary as we would awaken our other senses as we moved through the exhibit with our guide. So...

...the lights faded to complete black. I'm not talked dimly light room, light around the doorways, clock-radio, no, no... Total. Complete. Darkness. I could not see my hand a few inches in front of my face. My heart began to pound, my breathing became rapid and I began to sweat. Thoughts raced through my mind, "Where was the door? Could I get out? Maybe I needed to get out!" and I then heard a door open.
Our guide entered the room and began to speak calmly to us. My mother instinct took over and told me to get myself together! I was in here with my children! If I panicked what would it do to them? I began to hear Middleman and my husband whispering to each other. Middleman and I are cut from the same cloth. We experience everything with intense emotions and usually react with... intense emotions.

Our guide was a blind man. Todd was a 32-year-old newlywed. He reassuringly explained that he would guide us carefully through the exhibit and help us to bring our other senses to life. He asked each of us in turn for our name and whether or not we were ok. We each gave an affirmative (mine falsely buoyant, as I suspect Middleman's was, too). Todd kept his word and he clearly led us from room to room in the exhibit, all the while encouraging us to explore and guess what type of environment we were experiencing. We passed through a park and boarded a boat among other adventures. I don't want to give it all away. My youngest amazed me, he seemed completely unfazed. He frequently led us to new rooms and would wait in the new room alone while Todd returned to lead the rest of us! Middleman also became more comfortable even joking with Todd on several occasions. He wouldn't choose to do it over again, but was courageous and calm in facing his fears. As for Hubby and Oldest, they moved through with ease.

We ended by having a "Dialog in the Dark" with Todd, where he explained how he was diagnosed with diabetes as an infant. He added that he began to loose his eyesight 9 years ago and was close to being completely blind now. He explained that only 4% of the visually- impaired population experiences total darkness like the exhibit. However, the exhibit's power is in drawing your focus to your other senses, which is important to anyone experiencing an impairment. By the time we had reached this moment, I was having lapses of time when I didn't even think about the darkness. I just listened to his story.

The Dialog in the Dark experience will not soon be forgotten. I hope that I and my family have taken away from it a deeper understanding of what people with a variety of impairments must face. The difficulties and fears that they must overcome, and the adaptations they need to make. I had to reach inside to find the courage to continue and am glad I did. For more information on the exhibit, click here.


kimj said...

That sounded like a great experience - especially for your boys! I know you were wondering how it was going to turn out. I'm dying to know what they thought of the Rockettes!!

Nancy said...

That sounds like such a cool experience! And, my brother and his wife were at the Rockettes show this weekend too. They loved it. You? The boys? The funeral director?