I took me a while to figure out how I was going to accomplish this task. I wanted something unique, something challenging, something dangerous. From what I'd heard, black Friday can meet all of those criteria even for the sighted. So I decided to experience that most dreaded of activities, the Black Friday shopping experience, without even the benefit of sight to aid me.
The phone call came early that morning. Around four o'clock. My ride was on its way, and it was time to get ready. Pulling out the blindfold, I wrapped it around my face, locked it in place with a pair of sunglasses, grabbed my cane, and made my way to the front door. Soon enough, I was on my way.
Our first stop was basically a training exercise in "How not to get myself killed by Black Friday traffic", with a walk-through by my driver. Our goal was Wally world, and my first purchase of the morning: a camera to document my trip. I actually had to get unblinded crossing some roads for a short while here, on direct orders from the police. Once I found my way back into line, I figured I'd put off future questions about my ability to see by making it less obvious I was blindfolded. Ripping circles out of one of our less useful coupons (I assume), and using some stickers as tape, I managed to completely cover my eyes without outward sign while wearing my sunglasses. And then I waited in line.
It was at this point that I realized two things: I should have brought a coat, and I should have gotten accomplices who don't regularly wander off. I was actually assisted in navigating the line and finding my way to the front door by a couple of strangers, which would really set a surprising theme for the night. Normally, when I go shopping, I don't interact with anyone, even when I'm waiting in line. I'm sort of my own little island. Being unable to see, though, and being surrounded by so many people, communication was almost mandatory. And people, in stark contrast to what I expected from those who'd woken up at 4am or earlier, were amazingly helpful.
Eventually, I made my way inside and refound my companions. Terrified that while wandering the aisles I would knock over a number of expensive and highly fragile items in the same manner I had LAST time I visited Wal-mart (at which point I had not been blindfolded), I latched onto her shoulder.
Eventually, the camera was bought, checkout was navigated (once again with assistance from my companions), and our training session was over. We returned to the car, or tried to, except my driver couldn't remember where she parked. Trying to be helpful, I gestured and asked "I'm pretty sure it was somewhere in that direction." Amazingly, I was right, but apparently the comment wasn't actually helpful because she had already wandered off and I think i may have been talking to the back of an SUV.
After getting to our new location, I broke off on my own. First, I found a Target which thankfully had no line, as it wasn't getting any warmer. I made my way into the store, asking any reasonably person like sound for directions to various departments, looking for any of the items I needed. Feeling around, I realized I had no idea what most of these things were. I took a picture of one that confused me, but even looking at it later I couldn't figure out what it was. I guess there's some truth in advertising though - plastered across the top are the words "Easy to Find", and it certainly was. Eventually, feeling around, I managed to find one of those long lighters. I needed a decent lighter, so I decided that this was enough for my target trip, and made my slow and arduous way back to the front, reunite with my driver and her credit card, and head back out into the cold.
Note that this whole time, I was calling my driver regularly to make updates. I didn't know her phone number, but I did know roughly where she was in my contact list. My success rate was around 50/50... the other person I kept calling wasn't particularly happy about being woken up, but such is the risk one takes being in my contact list.
So I did a bit more shopping, visited a couple other stores, and eventually, like a moth to the flame, managed to find myself waiting in line for gamestop. At some point (judging by the pictures) the sun rose, but it was still as cold as all hell so it didn't actually help. After freezing for half an hour, and chatting up the people in front of and behind me in line, I realized that it wasn't actually the line for the store, but the line for the Wii. So I made my way inside, and after discovering they didn't have any of the gifts I was planning on buying for people, I decided to do some game testing. First I played something on the DS. Or I thought I did. Looking at the picture I took later, I think it may have been off. I played some shooter on the PS3, and was pretty unimpressed. The shining point, though, was Mario Galaxy for the Wii. Even unable to see, this game was amazingly enjoyable. The feedback of the controls, the sounds, they combined to give a real physical sense of location and make the game playable. I'm pretty sure I beat the first level, and I only had to ask for help once to get out of some underground box. While I was playing, I got the call that said my driver was heading out, and we talked about my experience while they drove me home. I didn't take off the blindfold until I got inside, and when I did I was amazed to notice it was daytime. I also forgot all the stuff I bought in her car, aside from the cameras.
In general, I had an amazing time. Had some cool conversations waiting in line. I spent maybe 10 minutes exploring some little display with my hands and marveling at how it felt, which I'm sure looked really weird to any of the other people around, but the biggest thing I noticed was that being unable to see seemed to make the world so much smaller, while at the same time making everything intensely more interesting. I'm really tempted to do the whole thing again just because of how different the experience was.