The eyes have it

It’s been a long time since I visited the opticians. How long enquired the serious looking optometrist*. Oh, you know, a while, few years, about seven, ish. I looked at him in the hope this wasn’t going to extend his frown. He looked right back somehow expressing surprise I could see anything at all.

Seven Years? Yep. Contact Lenses every day? Yep. These? – he offered up the brand I’d been sticking in my eyes with nary a concern for 2000+ days. Oh Yes. Hmm – he then carefully placed the lens packet on a nearby table with the care of a UXB professional faced with something from the ‘Properly Evil Warlords Thermonuclear Catalogue

Following that worrying sign were a bunch of vision related issues, asking me to confirm or otherwise how many applied to my rheumy eyeballs. Sticky? Yes. Red? Yes. Painful? Yes. Streaming? Yes. I saved him time and me trauma by concluding there would be no ‘otherwise‘ on my diagnosis form.

I’d only crossed the bloody threshold** because Carol had rightly bullied me to make an appointment after an incautious remark re: ‘you see those big matrix signs on the motorway? You do? Excellent, can you tell me what they say“. Now it seemed I’d be lucky to leave with anything other than a prescription for a white stick and a guide dog.

Jon – said optometrist, lovely man especially when confronted by idiots in denial – proceeded to tut and frown his way through a bewildering number of tests involving the traditional ‘what can you read on the board” / “what board would that be?”, stuff with lights, stuff with dye, stuff where air was blasted into your eyeball, before finishing on a peripheral test which put me in mind of the shittest ever game of space invaders.

At the end of this trial by eyeball, Jon cheered me up with some good news ‘you don’t have a brain tumour and your eyes have actually improved since your last eye test’. Awesome news that had me ready to leap from the mastermind shaped chair and make a run for the exit. Not to be, I was pinned to that chair for a while while the horrors of blood vessels growing into the cornea were explained to me along with the retina damage from oxygen starvation, and what exactly happens to a happy eyeball when it’s deprived of moisture.

My shock was so total that I failed to register the additional wonderful nugget that, being an officially old bugger, I’d best get use to the word bifocal in my immediate glasses wearing future. Not that I ever wore my glasses, but we’ll get to that humiliation later. First more upsides; veins not grown into your pupil so you’re not going blind. It can be made a lot better but the damage is done so when you’re really old, cataracts are going to be jolly, but, BEST OF ALL, you can carry on wearing lenses. Not the UXB lenses obviously but something new, clever and – crucially – unblinding.

This is a big thing for me. No lenses, no mountain biking. Hate riding in glasses. Hate glasses really. Not because I’m vain but because they’re just – well – bloody annoying. And, this being a throwback from my 11 year old self turning up at big school with a fresh set of National Health Horrors, I’m mentally unable to admit I need to wear them***

So Jon then offered me a deal where I could wear lenses whenever I wanted – even with some special ones for riding weeks away that gave away the non dominant eye reading prescription for trail laser vision – and a further opportunity not to fuck up what was left of my vision plus some glasses I could wear in public without having people assume I was already blind.

There was a monthly cost of course. Which I immediately signed up for. Sure my inner Yorkshireman was screaming ‘setup’, but then I went home and googled the symptoms. And decided£30 a month was better than having to ever look at those web sites again.

Choosing glasses was somewhere between fun and toe-curlingly embarrassing. Firstly I had to grudgingly hand over my only remaining pair bought some fifteen years ago when – I can’t remember but there can be no other explanation – I was leg wobblingly drunk. True professionals none of the staff actually laughed out loud, although one had to be excused, hand in mouth, to the back of the shop where lung emptying guffaws were audible.

The new pair were branded “Jaguar” which I assume is some car tie up rather than being the choice of the short sighted large cat predator. Enough Inner Yorkshireman remained to rebuff incremental selling on hooky lens benefits and unobtanium materials. The very fact I have purchased glasses with a bifocal lens gave me a depressing sense of managing decline. I’d be buggered if I was going to pay further for the privilege.

I left the shop more than a little chastened. You’ve damaged your eyes not your vision was Jon’s happy parting shot. Entirely avoidable of course, but in the three weeks of new super oxygenating lenses and even occasional glasses wearing, no longer am I ruining what’s left of my vision by chucking two or three new crappy lenses at protesting eyeballs every day.

But reading glasses. Flipping hell. I can’t decide if to give up reading or investigate the possibility of longer arms.

* entire first year of study must focus on ‘how to spell what you’re training to be

*** Doctors. Sick People. Hospitals. Very sick People. Dentists: People with teeth falling out. Opticians: People going blind. These establishments do not play well with a man deeply affected by a mortality fear.

*** choice of ‘oi specky four eyes‘ or not being able to see the board. Or spend most of your first year fighting. All three toughen you up a bit.

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