If you've never tried eating in the dark, I highly recommend it. Last night I went to a blind restaurant here in Zurich called Blindekuh. It's an establishment where all the waiters are blind, and all the patrons eat completely in the dark, without being able to see a thing. Considering I had just been made redundant/laid off from my only steady freelancing gig an hour before we went to eat, it was hard not to see the experience as a metaphor for the state of the world right now.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the blind dining experience. I went with my father and some of his friends, apparently they had to make reservations for it four months ago. It's pretty wild. When you go to the table you are guided in by your waiter into a large dining room that is completely pitch black. You go through the entire meal and then are led out without ever having seen the room you were in. It's interesting how being in the dark heightens all your other senses. You suddenly become aware of the tone of people's voices, the feel of the objects around you and the taste of the food. Eating is a bit of an adventure. You have to move your hands very slowly around the table to make sure you don't knock anything over. You have no idea what it is you're putting in your mouth, so you just have to guess from the texture. Sometimes I would bring the fork to my mouth to find there was nothing on it! I speculated that it would be hilarious if there was a night-vision camera trained on us and at the end of the evening we could all watch ourselves hanging our heads over our plates, dragging our food into our wide open mouths and eating like infants. Actually, maybe that wouldn't be so pleasant to watch!
Of course I was a little distracted throughout the evening because just before we left I got a call from the web company I do my regular writing shift for saying they're having money problems and could no longer have a Europe correspondent. It's not a huge big deal as it's just one of my sources of income, but it was the only one that came with a regular daily schedule and a regular paycheck. But times are tough and I can understand why they can't afford to have foreign contractors any more. I was going to stop doing it in the next few months anyway, assuming I can find a full-time job soon. But it was a rather startling reminder of the state the world is in right now.
By my count 15 of my friends in the US and UK have been laid off in the past month (judging from Facebook status updates). They're not alone. US unemployment rose 159,000 to a record 4.78 million Americans this week. The Eurozone unemployment rate has risen to 8 percent. The predictions and analysis coming from the World Economic Forum in Davos this week have been truly frightening. And nobody seems to be quite certain of what's coming next, all they seem to agree on is that it's going to be bad.
Sitting there helpless in the dark last night, at first I felt quite anxious. But soon I realized I wasn't alone, we were all in this together. Me, my table, and all the other diners were also trying to navigate their way through this new uncertain world. But by working together, advising each other on where the obstacles in the dark lie, we made it through. By the end of the meal it almost felt normal to be eating in the dark. As we all feel blindly around the table in 2009, perhaps it will be good to keep in mind that we're all in the same boat.
It's going to be an interesting year in the dark.