[2013113] Blind Date

[2013113] Blind Date

Big One Little One @ Adelaide CBD

12:00pm, Sat 9 Mar 2013

Me and dating… well, we’re not really familiar with each other. I’ve never done any speed dating, and I’ve certainly never gone on a blind date. But it was approaching March 9, my birthday, I’m in a happy place, and I feel emboldened to do something out of the ordinary. And with Blind Date‘s précis – “Trust a stranger and lose yourself in a unique one-on-one experience” – I found it.

I’d bought a ticket nice-and-early, and on March 4 I’d received an email containing a survey. I filled it out – a little personal info (I made it quite clear that the date was going to be on my birthday), with a handful of what’re-you-all-about-now questions – and, on March 8, I received my date’s completed survey… and I don’t mind being a little disappointed to see that my date was going to be another bloke. Even so, I was determined to make the most of the experience.

The email also contained a series of instructions – where to meet, what to do, and (more importantly) what not to do:

You’ll meet your date outside the Art Gallery of SA, located on North Terrace. Please arrive as close to the time of the date as possible, and take a seat on a bench nearby. At 12pm, close your eyes and wait for your date to arrive a few moments later. Your date will greet you, offer you the blindfold to wear, and take you through the ‘rules’ of the date.

It is vital that you keep your eyes closed at all times, especially when your date arrives – instinct tells many people to open their eyes and turn to face the person saying hi, but we really do need you to stay focused on keeping your eyes closed and facing away.

The date will run for approximately 60-80 minutes – this can be negotiated between you and your date during the experience, and will also be dictated by such considerations as weather, traffic and the rhythm of the experience.

On my way to the Art Gallery, I stopped by Morning Glory and bought myself a Girls’ Generation notebook – hey, it’s my birthday, and I feel justified in indulging myself in something silly and fun. At the Gallery, I find a bench in the shade, and – at 11:59-ish – I shut my eyes. And listened… listened closely.

But my date – Bren – approached me undetected. A kind voice in my ear – “Pete? I’m going to blindfold you, is that OK?” – and, with blindfold applied, he explained that he was going to take me on a tour of the city. Sounds great, I said; he offered options as to how he would guide me on my blind journey, and I opted to be led by the forearm.

I’d deliberately worn some of my thinner FiveFingers – I wanted to feel my way around the city, and I was so glad that I did. After being spun around a couple of times for the purpose of disorientation, Bren took my arm and we started walking; I tried figuring out where we were by sound, but I was relying on the soles of my feet… and Bren’s descriptions of approaching undulations.

“I know it’s your birthday,” he said after a few minutes of walking and chatting, “so I thought I’d buy you a drink.” The ground had been rough underfoot, there had been a slight incline, and it had got a little cooler and echoey; I asked for my beverage options, and as he read off the bar menu I realised we were at the TuxCat caravan bar. There’s a momentary headspin as my mental compass re-orients itself, and I hear Bren order two Saporros. We sit at the end of a bench, and we start chatting; after a couple of minutes, I become aware that I’ve been doing a lot of drinking and listening. “You’ve talked a lot and not drunk anything,” I tell Bren, “so let me tell you a story while you chill out a little.”

So I talk a little about Mad March and what I do, and – moreover – what the Festivals mean to me. I realise I’m talking excitedly through a big grin. We finish our beers, and Bren takes my arm again and guides me back outside – I feel the sun hit my skin. We start chatting about Blind Date: I have a million questions about Bren’s other dates, and how the piece was evolved… he’s quite forthcoming about the work, and it’s a wonderful conversation. I’m trying to keep track of our location – there’s gentle descents and ascents, flat spaces, changes of texture underfoot, stairs, running water, amiable crowd noise… but I’m lost.

We sit down. Taking control of my hand, Bren makes me plant a seed in some soft soil; headphones go on my head, some pleasant music plays. I’m holding deathly still and grinning like an idiot. We start walking again, and I hear the chirping of another crowd. “People are looking at us,” Bren says, as he gets me to feel a rough concrete structure.

I’m still lost.

Walking again, more stairs. “We’re almost at the end of the date,” Bren says; we stop, and he grabs my shoulders from behind, gently orienting me into a specific position. “Now… please slowly count to twenty and take the blindfold off,” he says, before wishing me a happy birthday and bidding me farewell. I count. I remove the blindfold. I discover that I’m back in front of the Art Gallery, about a foot away from a post; on the post is a small mirror. I see myself.

I’m still grinning like an idiot.

I resist the temptation to look around, to try and spot Bren. Instead, I start trying to retrace our steps. I realise that we walked past my favourite nook in Adelaide Uni, and that I hadn’t aurally recognised it. I found the crowd that looked at us in the Art Gallery cafe.

I try to find the seed-planting spot and fail. And then I wonder why I’m looking for it; why do I need to know? Why can’t I just let The Experience be The Experience? Why taint the mystery with pointless fact? And with that, I make some notes and move on; my Blind Date was successful, I thought, but I don’t think I’ll be seeing Bren again. And maybe that’s the point.

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