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2004.04.06 I Can See Clearly Now

posted Oct 25, 2009, 1:42 PM by Troy Cheek   [ updated Oct 25, 2009, 1:45 PM ]

...the brain is gone...

I was nearly 20 years old before my family and my doctors realized that I should have been wearing glasses since I was 10. I had some astigmatism which resulted in my being a tad nearsighted. All those headaches through the years were the result of eyestrain brought on by reading all those books. I always read by off in the corner by myself, so nobody connected the reading with the headaches, including me.

Oh, but surely someone at school must have noticed, right? Well, I was a good student by then and always sat at the front of the class. Between my good memory for the spoken word and whatever notes I took, I hardly needed to read much from the board. Those cheap flourescent lights made such a glare on the board that I wasn't the only one who had to squint and shuffle around to read what was written there.

We got vision tests a couple of times in early grade school. My eyes might have been better back then. But also the tests were not the type where you stand off and cover one eye and read smaller and small lines. We got to stare at this little projector and say which point of the light gray diamond had a dark gray square in it. I just looked for the darkest part of the blur, which is what I thought everyone else was doing. Perfect score.

(Years later, when we discovered that my younger brother's vision was much worse than mine, we asked how he could have played baseball so well. He was our best hitter. "Well, I just swung towards the darkest part of the blur flying towards me.")

When I got to college and the really big lecture halls, where even sitting in the front row meant you were 30 feet from the blackboard, I suddenly realized that I had a problem. And a short time later, I had my first pair of glasses.

Since it was my first pair of glasses, I got the full treatment from the staff. They explained pretty much everything there was to know about eyeglasses, especially the importance of keeping your glasses clean. Why, the slightest bit of dirt or dust or lint on the lenses could not only distort your field of vision, but cause the eye to focus on it, causing terrible eyestrain and...

"Headaches, yeah. I'm familiar with that process."

So I put on my first pair of eyeglasses and looked around at all the sharp edges and bright colors. Then I noticed a little bit of lint on one of the lenses. No problem. I just whipped out my trusty bandana and...

"Squawk!"

"What?" Did someone bring a chicken in here?

"Don't do that!"

"I was just cleaning my glasses." Like you told me to, I didn't add.

That got me another lecture. This one was about how excessive cleaning would wear off the scratch-resistant coating.

"So, I'm supposed to clean my glasses constantly to keep the lenses clear of the slightest lint or dust so I don't ruin my vision, but I'm not supposed to clean my lenses often for fear of ruining them?"

"Exactly!"

And people wonder why I get headaches.

I quickly learned to focus past the dust and lint. In fact, I eventually reached the point where I wouldn't bother cleaning my glasses until I could see better without them than I could with them. And I discovered that when I reached the point where I could see better without the glasses even after they were cleaned, it was time to get new glasses.

I was driving through town when I realized that I had reached that point again. I knew the old vision store place I'd gotten my last pair of glasses from had closed up shop. What to do? What to do?

FREE EYE EXAMS TODAY

And they say that advertising with little signs on the side of the road has gone out of style.

WALK-INS WELCOME

Even better.

ALL FRAMES 50% OFF

My kind of deal.

BURMA SHAVE.

Okay, that last one wasn't there. But it should have been.

I saw that the signs ended at one of those one-hour eyeglasses places. I did one of my famous Cheek turns. That's where you hit the brakes, crank the wheel, and flip the turn signal all in the same motion. I skidded sideways into a parking space. Perfect parking as always.

And if you think that manuever is risky, I will point out that unlike my younger brother, I actually wait until the car stops moving before I get out.

"Can we help you, sir?"

I told them I would like an eye exam.

"Eye exam? Joyce, is the doctor coming in today?"

"I don't think so. He doesn't have any appointments on his calendar."

"Do you have an appointment, sir?"

I pointed out that the sign said that walk-ins were welcome.

"Well, yes, sir. Can you come back tomorrow?"

I pointed out that the sign said the eye exams were today.

"Well, yes, sir. But the doctor's not in. If you give me your insurance card, we can start processing you and you won't have to fill out any paperwork when you come in for your appointment."

I pointed out that the sign said the eye exams were free.

"Well, yes, sir. But the... Oh, hello, Doctor!"

"Any mail for me?"

"This young man is here for an eye exam."

"Pardon? I thought I didn't have anything on my calendar today."

I pointed out that the sign said that walk-ins were welcome.

"Well, I wasn't really planing to see any patients today."

I pointed out that the sign said the eye exams were today.

"Well, give Joyce your insurance card and when I come back from the lake..."

I pointed out that the sign said the eye exams were free.

I could hear my girlfriend's voice saying "Troy, this is why people take an instant dislike to you."

Hmph. Frown. Rolls eyes. Sigh. "If you'll follow me, young man."

I got the briefest and rudest eye exam of my life. The whole thing took maybe three minutes, including having to do the glaucoma test three times.

"Put your chin on the platform."

I put.

"Stare straight ahead."

I stared.

WHAM!

"You flinched. We'll have to do it over."

Do what over? My eyeball felt like it had been hit by a baseball bat. And I know what that feels like.

"The glaucoma test. We hit the eyeball with a stream of compressed air and see how it deforms under the pressure. But you moved so we'll have to do it again."

We did. I tried very hard not to flinch. He was not impressed with my performance. Or with my old glasses.

"You really should clean your glasses more often. And the coating on your lenses is worn almost completely through."

Sigh.

"Joyce, I'm going to the lake. Just as soon as I take down some signs."

"Okay, Doctor. Young man, your lenses will be ready next week."

I pointed out the ONE HOUR part of the sign outside.

"Well, yes, but you'll have to wait."

I had nothing but time.

First plan was to put the new lenses in my existing frames, but it turned out that they were a different size than the old lenses. Oh, they could cut the new lenses down to make them fit, but that would take until next week. I asked to see some new frames.

"Those frames look very nice on you. And they'll accept the new lenses without modification. They're $180."

"That's $90 with the discount, right?"

"What discount?"

I pointed out that the sign said all frames were 50% off. The doctor hadn't pulled that one up yet. He was too busy arguing with the nice police officer about putting up signs on the right of way without paying the appropriate fees.

It took them about 20 minutes to try to explain that, yes, "all" frames were on sale, but that didn't mean all the frames in the store were on sale. It just meant that all the frames in the store that were on sale were on sale. It turned out that "all" frames meant the old, cheap ones they were trying to get rid of.

I tried on a few of those, found one that fit my face and would fit the lenses, and told them to go to it.

"...ready in about a week."

I pointed out the ONE HOUR part of the sign.

"Well, yes, but you'll have to wait."

I had nothing but time. I picked a comfy chair and started thumbing through magazines. I was even nice and opened the door for the doctor when he came back in with the signs, since he'd already bounced his face off the door twice trying to get through by himself. I'm sure I could have learned many new and interesting words had he not had that bandana over his mouth stop the bleeding.

Eventually, the glasses were ready and, seeing clearly and brightly, I paid the nice ladies. "And those frames have a lifetime guarantee, young man. If you ever have any problems with them, just bring them back and we'll fix them for you, free of charge."

A year or two later, a screw fell out and my left lens decided to skitter down a flight of stairs. I found the lens but couldn't find the screw. No problem. I drove back to the one hour eyeglasses place. They didn't recognize me.

I explained that a screw had fallen out and I needed a new one. They looked at my glasses. "Young man, we don't sell this type of frame. You should take it back to the place where you bought it."

I explained that this was the place where I bought it.

"Oh, you must be mistaken, young man. We haven't sold this type of frame in years."

I showed them my receipt. I think they recognized me then.

Joyce handed off my glasses to another nice lady who disappeared with them for a while. "We don't have a screw that matches, but I was able to get a slightly larger one in there. The next time you need service, you should take it back to the place where you bought it. We don't sell this type of frame here."

I showed her my receipt. The other ladies ushered her back to the back at that point. "Will there be anything else, young man?"

No, that was all.

"That will be $20."

I showed them my receipt again, which said lifetime guarantee. They grumbled a bit but let me walk out without paying.

A year or two later, I lost another screw, this one holding one of the arms on. I drove back to the one hour eyeglasses place. They didn't recognize me.

I explained that a screw had fallen out and I needed a new one. They looked at my glasses. "Young man, we don't sell this type of frame. You should take it back to the place where you bought it."

I explained that this was the place where I bought it.

"Oh, you must be mistaken, young man. We've never sold this type of frame."

I showed them my receipt. I think they recognized me then.

It took them about 20 minutes to explain that, yes, it was a "lifetime" guarantee, but they no longer sold that type of frame and nobody working there now had ever worked on that type of frame and wouldn't know the first thing about locating a screw of that size which they didn't have any of anyway. Oh, they could send it off to another facility in another state. "Your glasses will be back next week. That will be $20."

I didn't bother pointing out the ONE HOUR part of the sign. I did question the $20. That, it turns out, is the fee they'd have to pay to get the work done at the other facility. I'd have to pay it or otherwise they would have to pay it. I didn't see a problem there. Or, if there was a problem, it was theirs and not mine. But it turns out that my "lifetime" guarantee only covered "any" repairs that they could do on-site with available parts and tools.

Instead, I checked a few other eyeglasses places around town and finally got a screw from a local jeweler. The only one he had that was the right diameter and thread count was too long, but he epoxied it into place before he cut off the excess length so he didn't think it would fall out. He also tightened up the rest of the screws in the glasses.

All for no charge, as I'd told him the whole story while he worked and he felt sorry for me. He wanted me to know that not all businessmen in that town were like that.

I think I know where I'm going to buy my next piece of jewelry.

Why tell this story now? Well, I've just about reached the point where I can see as well without my glasses as I can with them, recently cleaned or not, so it's time for another eye exam. Back then, I had to pay all expenses out of pocket. Now, I have vision insurance from work. I'm sure that will make everything easier.

And pigs will start dive bombing eagles any day now.

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