Kris had a ‘surprise’ for us.  Now, let me just admit that I don’t really like ‘surprises’.  I don’t seek thrills and excitement by riding the roller coaster.

The ‘surprise’ was a restaurant called O Noir.  We were told to put our ‘things’ in a locker.  Sensing uncertainly, I asked, “What?  Like our clothes?”

"No", Kris chuckled, "you can keep your clothes on.  They told us to put anything that lights up or dings in the locker. "

Stubbornly, I said, “I need my lip stuff and my Kleenex because I have a cold”. 

Someone suggested I put it in my bra. 

“I’m not going to put that much stuff in my bra!”

I couldn’t get my head around this.  I was the only one I our group of six not coping with the uncertainty of what was happening and was nervously fighting whatever ‘it’ was.

I grabbed my Kleenex and Burt’s Bees and reluctantly put my purse in the locker.

We sat on small chairs in the lobby and ordered a 3 course meal.  Kris told us that any of the 3 could be a ‘surprise’ and said it would be more fun if we did that. 

A surprise will not be fun for me.

I ordered from the menu.

As I looked around and wondered what was next, I innocently asked, “what does ‘Noir’ mean?”

“It’s French for black.”


Next we were told to stand up, put our hands on the shoulders of the person in front of us and walk in a line. 

A conga line?  What? 

I grabbed my Kleenex and Burt’s Bees and put my hands on the shoulders of the waiter. 

He knocked on a plain looking door.

Knock Knock Knock

We walked into a completely dark room.  When the door shut behind us we stood in the pitch black.  I started to get a little nervous.

He knocked on another door.

Knock Knock Knock

Because we were unable to see, we were told that the door was on our right.  We should hold it open for the person behind us and keep connected to the person in front of us.  As I reached to hold the door open, I dropped my Kleenex.

As I reached down in the inky blackness to get it, the waiter said, “No no, leave it there!"

We entered another dark room.  My heart started to race and panic rose up in my chest. 

The waiter moved me by my shoulders and said, “your chair is in front of you.  Pull it straight out and sit down.”  I froze. 

Were we going to sit here in the dark?

I turned to Jill whose hands were on my shoulders.  “I don’t like this.  I don’t like this at all”.  She grabbed my hand and assured me that she was by my side.

I sat down obediently and began to feel hot and dizzy.

I couldn’t let go of Jill's hand.  My forehead started to sweat and I wanted to cry.  I leaned my head up against the wall and thought,

This is SO stupid!  This is crazy!  Why are we in the dark?  What is this supposed to prove? 

Can I do this?  I don’t want to.  I want to get out into the light and breathe.

I was so hot. 

My friends laughed and delighted in the uncertainty of this experience.  They giggled as they stumbled to take their seats.  I held my friend’s hand like a child and planned my escape. 

How long will this last?

The waiter came to the table with instructions about how we’d receive our food in this tomb.  First he had to shush us up and told us that we couldn’t talk when he was talking.  That's just about impossible with this group.

He would hand things to us over our right shoulder. 

First came the water.  I placed the glass carefully at the top right-hand corner of my placemat. 

What kind of placemat is this?  It feels like that thick rubber weave that belongs under the sink!

Are we going to be spilling all over the place? 

This is so dumb! 

Everyone else seems to be enjoying this. 

Quit being so up-tight, Cathy.  You’re going to live.

Then came the wine.  There was only one time in my life that I truly wanted to drink alcohol to calm myself.  This was the second.  I set it gingerly next to my water, reaching for the stem often to make sure it didn’t spill.  Water – wine – water – wine  I repeated this over and over to myself so I wouldn’t forget. 

Although I had a head cold that day, I had felt fine.  Why did my head feel so heavy now?  I laid it down on the table.  It felt good to lay there.  No one could see me.  Tears welled up in my eyes as I gave into my panic and frustration. 

Don’t start balling, Cathy.  Everyone else is coping with this.  Deal!  Why are you such a big baby? 

Because, I’m SO hot!

From across the table Mary asked, “Cathy, you’re being kinda quiet.  Are you alright?”

I managed to choke out an “I’m fine”.

She continued, “it sounds like you’re laying down.  Are you laying down?  Are you sure you’re OK?”

I lifted my head off the placemat.  “Yeah, I’m fine.”  And set it back down. 

As we tried to understand our cirumstances someone commented, “This is cool how we need to think about where everything is and make sure it’s in its place.”

Out of frustration and honesty, I answered, “I always know where things are and I ALWAYS have things in their place!”  Laughter came from everyone. 

They know me.

I’m OK now.  I will be able to do this.

It was loud, I was hot, and my head felt like a bowling ball.

Our first course came.

I am so glad I didn’t order a surprise!  I know what this is! 

I ate my salmon salad with a fork and my fingers.  It was delicious.

My friends continued to laugh and talk.  Some of them had ordered a surprise and were trying to guess what it was.  No one got it right.

               They are enjoying this.  Why aren’t you, Cathy?

Then my nose started to run.  My Kleenex was somewhere on the floor in the entryway.   Still frustrated about the experience, I was happy to soil their fine linen.  When the waiter came back, I asked him for another. 

I had become THAT person who pesters the waiter for every little thing.  I was snarky and impolite and didn't care what he thought of me.  He couldn’t see me anyway!  I was hot and mad and holding buggers in my napkin because my Kleenex was gone.  Luckily I found my Burt’s Bees tucked in my bra. 

This couldn’t get any weirder.

Next came our entrée.  It was a delicate white fish in a smooth creamy sauce with vegetables.  I’m sure I ate every last bite.

After the waiter took our plates I laid my head back down on the sticky rubbery placemat.  I moved my wine to the left because drinking it was causing my pounding head to be even more dizzy and light.  I rested on my chin so I could breathe. 

Then it happened.  From across the table a glass of wine landed on my head. 

“You just spilled wine all over my head!”

I went to grab my water and knocked it all over Jill. 

Now tears were spilling out of my eyes. 

Breathe, Cathy!  Breathe!

The wine spiller apologized profusely.  I tapped my sticky fingers on the front of my dress and didn’t feel any wet spots.  I told her it was OK and didn’t think that any had spilled on me. 

Let me just say, that normally if someone puts food in front of me, I’m so grateful.  I don’t enjoy cooking and I’ll eat almost anything.  Now I’m barking at the waiter for more water because mine is in my friend’s lap.

Dessert was fabulous.  It was cheesecake with berries and I ate it quickly.  Since I was out of my organized controlled world, I threw caution to the wind and actually licked my plate.  

I’ve always wanted to do that. 

The waiter came by and told us there was another seating in 10 minutes so we had to finish up. 

I have never been so grateful to be replaced. 

When we stood up to go I knew EXACTLY where the door was.  It was seared into my memory as a survival mechanism. 

It took about 15 minutes for me to decompress from the experience.  Although I was ecstatic to be out of the darkness I was also disappointed  that I hadn’t stayed in the moment and enjoyed the experience with my friends.

. . . did I mention that I was hot?