Trauma of glaucoma :-)
[Warning: I did not have enough time to make this story short. It is a real life story though]
All I wanted was a new pair of glasses. Not because my eyesight had become any the worse but that the eyeglasses had started cracking. I was not looking for anything fancy. Just something that would be an upgrade from cracked glasses 🙂
What I had not bargained for was the absolute adventure that would come with this seemingly innocuous desire. I now realize how long gone are those simple days of acquiring glasses of my childhood days. This is how the process used to run…. It would usually start by me bringing in a terrible grade in some test. Facing dad’s tough questions to explain myself and my grades, I would totally throw my faithful glasses under the bus and claim I couldn’t see the blackboard well 🙂
That would mean a quick trip to the eye doctor – we did not need any appointments those days – and he would simply sit me twenty feet away from a board and ask me to read out the letters. A simple prescription in hand, we would go to the only eye glass shop available. The entire choice of frames was reduced to three. There would be a black one, a multicolored one (it used to be called “bottle wine” color – for whatever reason) and one trendy one in line with some Bollywood actor’s new glasses. For that very same reason, my dad would summarily eliminate the third one. So, I would pretty much alternate between the black and the “bottle wine” frame every visit. Next day I would go to school happy with big thick glasses like every other nerd. Admittedly, a nerd, who is mindful that he has run out of excuses for bad grades for another year 🙂
It is because of experiences like the above that I believe, I have highly suppressed genes when it comes to looking trendy. Certainly, in my house, I am not the one who runs out of annual budgeted money for clothes and such. Usually, around this time of the year, the daughters and wife are trading their budgeted money for electronics with my budgeted money for clothes 🙂 In keeping with that, I fished out my last prescription from March 2010 neatly organized under a folder predictably titled “Eye Prescription – Rajib” and went to Lenscrafters for new substitute glasses.
My unwillingness to spend on money was immediately scoffed at by the lady at the front desk who informed me that they cannot fill a prescription more than one year old. I was a little peeved. What kind of scam is this? It is not like I went there looking for medicine. And anyways, I did not go in to report a problem of my eyes – I just want a new pair of glasses. Exact copy of what I had would be fine too.
Not to worry! There was a doctor right there at Lenscrafters who could check my eyes. How convenient!!! Anyways, I grudgingly went in. The process of eye-testing beats the ridiculousness of my dentist who always asks me intriguing questions right when he has my jaw held open by some dentistry tools!!
The eye doctor swung this big metal thingy and put it on my nose and asked if it was too bright or too dark. Still irritated with the whole waste of time, I retorted “Too cold”! That metal thingy must have been sitting in that room under the AC vent unused for days!! 🙂
She then took me thru this test where she would turn something rapidly in front of that cold metal thing that I was peering thru and ask “Which is better – 1, 2 or 3”? I got only a quarter second for 1 and 2 and all the time for 3 till I could come up with an answer!! Willing to test the “Stand your ground” law my own way, I insisted that she take me back to 1, wait there for a few seconds…. and so on !
By this time we were proceeding at a pace that would make a snail look like a turbo-charged car. In an effort to hurry up, she started offering another option -“Which is better – 1, 2 or more or less the same”? I am like “Whoa. What do you mean ‘more or less'”? How much more is more? How much less is less? I did not start this process of wasting my time. But if I got dragged into it, I shall do it like a perfectionist!
Eventually, she moved on to the next step. At the core of it, its elegance lay in its simplicity. I would open my eyes and she would puff some air into it. Not unlike how I used to irritate my brother when we were children. Do you think after these eye tests, those doctors get together in their back office and go “Good lord! They still have not caught up with us. Blowing into the eye!! That is rich!”? 🙂
Then she put something in my eye that dilated the pupils more than that of pre-teens meeting Justin Bieber or something. It hurt to look at any light. So, what did she do? She pulled up way close to me and put in a really really bright light into my eyes to check my retina, or at least that was the ruse. The light was so blinding that I was wondering if this is a practice run to the bright light I am supposed to see when I die. I had half a mind of asking her if I had somehow wandered into the Guantanamo Bay. But with a stern lady barely a few inches away with a shiny pointy thing next to my eye, I thought the better of it. 🙂
Finally she let me go but not before asking why I don’t get my eyes checked every year. I bleated out something weakly but what I really meant to say was “Look, lady. I am always suspicious of anybody who calls what they do ‘practice’. Why don’t you call me back whenever you perfect whatever it is that you are practising”? 🙂
Next I moved to Phase B. Which is choosing frames. I am terrible at this. Accordingly, I called upon my reserves and asked my wife and daughters if they would come and help me. Never to lose a chance at shopping, they showed up promptly. As I waited for them, I tried out a few frames myself. I am sure the astute reader remembers that my pupils were still dilated. Here is how dilated they were – a Lenscrafter sales lady came up from behind and asked me if I was looking to get new glasses. I wanted to say – No, I was in the mall to buy some candy. I figured the best way to do that would be to try out some eyeglass frames first 🙂 All that bravado disappeared into thin air in a jiffy with her next statement – “You are in the ladies’ section, Sir”! Yikes!!!
Let me tell you what is worse than trying to pick your eyeglass frames yourself when you have dilated eyes. It is getting four ladies to help you!! My wife, my younger daughter and two of the Lenscrafter ladies (it was a lean day for them) were picking up frames and disagreeing with each other constantly. Visualize this really incredulous situation for me – four ladies picking up frames, discussing among themselves, slipping them on my nose and making negative comments as I walked around (without my normal glasses on) with a tray they gave me as the ladies piled on more and more frames into it. Worst part is, I could not even see for myself how I looked in any of those frames. Without my glasses on, I am blind as a bat. With my glasses on, putting on another set of frames, I border on the ridiculous. So, I just patiently walked along 🙂 My mind gently wafted back to very early childhood days when a blind beggar would come door to door in our neighborhood with a box in this hand to collect alms singing “O ma, ondho nachaare koriyo go daan”. The similarity of the two situations was striking.
At one point, I picked up something that looked somewhat like what I had seen my good friend Roger Whitney wear. He called it “retro” or something. I know it sounded like “antique” but he used a word lot more sophisticated than “antique”. My younger daughter gave me one look and said “Who do you think you are kidding?”. I took that as a positive step and asked her “This is a cool metrosexual look” (upon which I exhausted my entire fashion trend word vocabulary). Nikita got hiccups, she laughed so hard 🙂
In all this confusion, I lost my actual glasses!! It got terribly mixed up with all those frames in the box and I have this acute self-referential issue that without my glasses, I cannot find my glasses!
Finally, I decided enough was enough – and went with the cheapest ones I could get. At which point Sharmila and Nikita went to other shops for more retail therapy. To be honest, I was not feeling too bad. The two salesgirls had read out such a litany of sales deals and discounts they were going to give me that I was starting to think that I might actually walk away with two pairs of glasses and might be even some extra cash in hand!! Would be nice to balance the aforementioned retail therapy!
And then she worked up the whole bill and gave it to me. I took out my glasses twice and rubbed hard to make sure I was seeing right. Wow! This was after all the discounts? The sales girl realized my shock and probably was getting afraid that I might walk away without any glasses. She tried to put me at ease and asked “What do you think?” I told her exactly what I was thinking at that point of time “Do yo guys carry any seeing dogs”? 🙂
Boy, this year it is going to be very tough during the line item budget trading season with the family. I really was looking forward to some extra electronics money for a few more Apple products this holiday season. Especially, since with those new glasses, I will be “looking forward” even better 🙂