I Didn’t See That Coming.
Thoughts on the insidious evil of Optometry.
'It’s called Myopia. Your eyes are shaped like rugby balls' the Optometrist explained as she pressed a button and sent fifty thousand pounds worth of laser guided machinery away from my squinting face.
‘That’s ironic' I started to reply. 'Because my balls are shaped like...' My voice tailed off. I don’t know how far the professional relationship between an Optometrist and a patient can be taken but I was fairly sure I could get her into trouble for consulting on anything below the neck.
I was irritated because I had just been subjected to a very expensive test that essentially tried to demonstrate that I was, or was no, a liar.
This is how it works. You sit and look through a series of lenses at some letters projected on the wall. The Optometrist flips various lenses in front of you and enquires after each one:
'Is this one clearer?' to which you answer yes or no. What they don’t tell you. the big optometry secret, if you will, is that sometimes they are flipping lenses in front of you that have already been there before! They call it 'checking for consistency' but my question is. 'Who lies for an eye test? Okay, if you are seeking a job as an Apache Gunship Pilot I can understand a bluff. (Judging by some results of Allied bombing I think some of them got away with it). But since the age of twelve my consistent reply to the instruction 'Read the letters on the chart on the wall' has been 'What wall?'
Now I am forty two and my Optometrist could save herself a lot of time by accepting the fact that I am not going to attempt an eye test prank that will leave me with the corrected visual acuity of Mr. Magoo.
That, though, is not the end of the torture. After being told that my eyeballs, along with the rest of me, are slowly beginning the process of ageing that will inevitably result in them being as withered as the Walnut from the Christmas stocking of three years ago, I then have to go for 'frame selection’.
Not everyone has to have new frames at every eye test. however, people like me who use their glasses for emphasising a point of conversation, scratching their arse and fishing pieces of meat from the kitchen sink plughole regularly have to change.
Recently glasses have become something of a fashion item rather than an optical prosthetic and so designers now assault you with images suggesting the right kind of spectacle is aspirational. When I first joined the ranks of the Myopic the clichéd phrase was
'Girls don’t make passes at men who wear glasses’. Now the trending slogans are along the lines of:
‘She won’t give a toss, if you don’t wear Boss’.
The 'Spectacle Style Matching Room' or whatever it was called was, was adorned with photographs of pallid, size zero models wearing oversized frames that, I’m sure, made the look uber cool. To me they resembled pictures you see of the faces of insects taken through a microscope.
The 'style guide' ,a sort of personal shopper for face furniture, had me trying on hundreds of pairs of glasses. personally I thought I looked great in all of them but since the lenses were only blank plastic I couldn’t actually see the mirror to make any kind of assessment. My guide, Ramon, kept making excitable comments like:
'They clasp your face so well, but I don’t know about the brow symmetry’. In desperation I asked him.’These ones, do they hook over my ears?'
'Then let’s have them and move the fuck on. It’s lunchtime’.
I had finally realised that all this choice, all this technology was actually a brilliantly crafted sales ploy that would, over a period of two hours, would grind you down like a timeshare salesman. You will pay them anything to get out . You are tired, hungry and slightly disorientated because you haven’t got your glasses on.
It’s genius and they almost got away with it.
'That will be three hundred and twenty five pounds please'
Not for the first time today my vision blurred.
'I’m sorry. I’m paying for new glasses, not for someone to pop by every morning and insert freshly donated eyeballs into my head’. Ramon sucked a lemon.
'I can reduce the cost slightly we remove the 'Dacron coated , NASA approved thermonuclear resistant coating' he offered in a voice that suggested this was about as good an idea as sticking a fork in my head.
'What does that do, for fifty quid?' I asked.
'It stops the lenses getting damaged' Ramon declared proudly.
'If I use them to scratch my arse?' I wondered.
'Take it off' I shouted as I got up to leave. I was, after all, in a hurry. Next stop the hardware store to replenish my stock of sticky tape and tiny little screws.