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Getting Glasses: The Comical, the Bad & the Ugly

Getting Glasses: The Comical, the Bad & the Ugly

I’ve worn glasses since I was six years old, long before it was cool. I don’t mind wearing them, but what I really dread is going to the eye doctor’s and getting new glasses. The experience is rarely successful and hardly comfortable. But my current glasses had outlived their usefulness and I could no longer see clearly. So last week, I broke down and went to the eye doctor.

When I got there, the sign over the front desk read “If you don't see what you're looking for, you've come to the right place." Perfect.

I was ushered into the exam room and pretended to read the magazines while secretly checking out the contraptions around me that looked like a cross between medieval torture equipment and James Bond spy gadgets. Then the eye doctor came in, the house lights went down and we began with the alphabet.

There was only one problem with the alphabet chart: the letters didn’t seem to be in English. They were blurry blobs of ink, one in the shape of the Greek letter omega and another like the Chinese character for water.

I tried to memorize some of the shapes on the top line with what I thought was my good eye, but when I switched to the other eye, what I remembered didn’t match what little I could actually read, so either my eyes are going or my mind is.

After the alphabet game, the doctor put on his miner’s hat, which had a laser light fastened to it which he focused directly on my eyes. I felt like I was in a police interrogation. I was supposed to focus on his ear and it was so close that had I scissors, I could have trimmed his ear hairs, though that would probably not have been a smart move given my astigmatism, near-sightedness and far-sightedness.

Then came what I can only describe as a Star Trek hand-held phaser set on "stun," which was supposed to blow air into my eye so the doctor could check for obscure eye diseases. The impact left my eyes watering and my nose running. He gave me a tissue, just one (one of those flimsy, one-ply tissues like you find in public restrooms). I tried to wipe my eyes and blow my nose with it delicately while he pretended not to notice.

We then moved on to the multiple-choice test. Which lens made my vision better, he asked, as he switched lenses rapidly, A or B, first or second, this or that? I’m usually a good test taker, but here I felt stupid because I really couldn’t tell the difference and he gave no hints as to what the correct answer was. It worried me that my vision and the safety of pedestrians everywhere depended on those split-second decisions.

When I had survived the multiple-choice test, it was on to the grand finale: dilation. I had been dreading this moment since I walked in the door. The concept was for the doctor to put some eye drops in so my pupils would dilate and he could check for more problems. The eye drops felt like needles shooting glue into my eyes.

After he looked into my eyes, I was escorted to the waiting room for the mandatory one-hour waiting period. My eyes were too stuck open to read anything so I tried to focus on the wallpaper and smile at the other patients who politely ignored the fact that I looked stoned. Anywhere else, they would have called the police.

Eventually, my eyes began to un-dilate. Then, the fun really began when I got to pick new frames. I put in my contacts so I could see what I looked like. The first pair I chose happened to be a designer frame that cost more than a trip to Tahiti.

I quickly put that one back and tried to figure out the advertised sales, which offered free lenses, but only if I bought the designer frames, or free no-name frames, but only if I bought the lenses with UV protection, anti-reflective glare and no-line bifocals.

So I gave up on getting the best price and decided to focus only on selecting the right frame. I pulled all the interesting frames off the rack and separated them into piles – “yes,” “no” and “what was I thinking.”

The sales clerk tried to be helpful by pointing out that the shape of the glasses should complement the shape of my face and we tried to figure out what could possibly complement my round face, square hair, oval eyes and triangular nose. After an analysis of my features that would have made my high school geometry teacher proud, she retreated to the sales counter across the room, cursing me under her breath because she would have to put back all the frames when I was done.

After an hour or so, the qualifying heats were over and we were down to the finals. But it was too close to call. I was so confused that they all started to look identical and ugly. It was near closing time, so I just sighed, closed my eyes and pointed, “this one and take all the others away.”

Of course, what I ended up buying was one of the first three frames I had tried on, which had looked okay, but I couldn’t be absolutely sure until I had tried on the other 142 frames in the store.

A few days later, I had my new glasses and was happily tripping down the stairs in them. The ordeal was over… at least until the next time I needed new glasses.

Gilda Bonanno is a speaker, trainer and coach who helps people from all walks of life improve their communication and presentation skills. Copyright (c) 2002

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