Wait

I need new glasses.

I’ve needed new glasses for several months now, but I didn’t want to go for a vision exam until after I was vaccinated.  I finally called to make an appointment in April, and the first opening they had was June 28th.  Obviously I was not the only one who had waited.

The day finally arrived, I went for my exam, and I got my new prescription.  Next stop:  the optician’s office for new lens and frames.

Let me say now that I am grateful that my eyes are healthy and that I live in an age when vision issues are easily addressed with corrective lens!—because I need reading glasses, and distance glasses, and glasses for that vague middle ground that gets fuzzy when I’m working on the computer or looking in a mirror.  I’ve been getting by with bifocals for well over a decade.  I’ve dealt with that middle ground issue with tricks, contortion, and complacency.  I primarily type on a laptop and I just pull it closer on my lap if I feel a deep need to see the screen better.  If someone needs me to see their screen, well then, they need to get out of the way while I dive in real close to get a look.  As for mirrors, I’m fine not knowing exactly what I look like anymore.  Fuzzy is good.

However at the dawn of the Zoom Era, I bought some cheap over-the-counter readers from Amazon so I wouldn’t have to push my face up against the camera during online meetings.  I’m sure the other participants were grateful.

But now finally I was at the optician’s office, and I thought, this is it!  I’m going to let go of the bifocals and invest in progressive lens that will offer me three corrections all in one glass.  I had concerns, but the optician was smoothly comforting, assuring me that most people adjusted to them quickly, and he was sure I would find them efficacious.  I agreed.  He suggested I ask for him when I come in to pick them up.

When the glasses came in, my first optician—the smooth guy—was not available.  The second optician was a bit unkempt in an untucked shirt and jeans.  I put on the glasses, looked in the mirror, and saw a reflection that was crisper than I’d seen in years.  Wow!  Then I looked across the room.  Complete blur.  “What am I doing wrong?” I asked frantically.  “Am I looking through the wrong part of the lens?”

But he didn’t look at me.  He looked at the order form.  “This is wrong.  This is all wrong.”

“But this,” I said, gesturing toward the mirror, “this is good.”

He shook his head.  “No, no, let me explain.”  He pulled out a blank sheet of paper and a pen and proceeded, professorial-like, to explain what had gone wrong.  There were charts and graphs and a diagram of the human eye.  It was way more than I wanted to know.

“Yes,” I agreed.  “The lens is wrong for distance.  But this—” Again I gestured toward the mirror.  I wanted him to understand:  don’t mess this part up.  This part they did right!  

He responded by jotting down a chart of addition facts.  I recognized them of course, but could not glean the relevance.  Eventually he gave me a bottle of glass cleaner (a consolation prize, I guess) and sent me on my way.

A few weeks later the next set of glasses came in.  The optician this time looked like an aging hippie with a mop of curly hair.  “Those look great on you,” he gushed.  “How do they feel?”

“Okay, I guess.”  I could read signs on the other side of the room.  My reflection looked crisp in the mirror.  I could see to read.  I guess I was good to go.  “I’m still concerned because I’ve never had progressive lens before.”

“Oh, you just have to get used to them.”

I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  I wasn’t sure what to ask.  “Any advice?”

“You’ll be fine,” he exclaimed enthusiastically.

“Okay.”  I walked out and I was fine.  They worked great while I was driving.  The road ahead was clear and the dashboard was crisp.  All was well. 

But when I got home, I found it hard to find that sweet spot for reading.  Checking out a new recipe for dinner required a lot of back and forth with the cook book.  The section of the lens allotted to the readers was small.  If I got too close to the words, it got fuzzy.  If I held it too far, it was too small to read.  Eventually I’d hit it.  “I guess I’ll get used to this,” I thought.

Same thing when checking email on my phone.  Back and forth.  Okay.  There.  “I guess I’ll get used to this,” I thought.

But that evening when I wanted to lie on the couch and read a paperback novel—damn!  Every time I turned a page, it seemed I had to refocus.  If I shifted my weight, or a cat jumped into my lap, I had to re-adjust my grip on the book, moving it back and forth and all around to get the words to clear up.  “I can’t live like this,” I told my feline companions.  I took them back the next day.

This time the optician was a young woman who was wearing the same glass frames I had chosen.  Oh, we’re going to get along, I thought.

I told her I wanted bifocals again.  She assured me that could be done.  She told me in fact that since bifocals were cheaper than the trifocal progressives, I would be due a partial refund.  Yes!  Then I asked her what magnification I should buy for computer use when I go to buy them over-the-counter at the pharmacy.  She looked at my chart.  “Oh, well,” she said, “I could guess at an approximation, but you have to understand they won’t address your astigmatism.”

Astigmatism?!  I have an astigmatism?  No one had ever told me that.

“Plus,” she added, “you need a different prescription in each eye.”

Jeez!  No wonder everything is fuzzy on Zoom.

“We do have some inexpensive frames starting at $20,” she continued.  “And you do have a refund coming.  It probably won’t cost much more than that.”

So I bought a second pair of glasses.  And they still owed me a refund!  I left happy, even though it had been a month since my initial appointment and I still didn’t have my glasses.  But it was a journey, and I was confident I was finally in the home stretch.

A week later they called to tell me my glasses were in.  I was so excited.  As I drove to the optician’s office, I thought of how this would be the last time driving in my current glasses.  They had served me well, but I reallyneeded an upgrade.

Today’s optician was called over to assist me by the receptionist.  “I’m filling in today,” she said cheerfully.  She later referred in passing to “following her own rules.”  I got the impression she was a supervisor who was not accustomed to serving the public.  She was a bit brusque.  

“So,” she said by way of greeting, “computer glasses.”

“And bifocals,” I told her.  “There are two pairs.”

“I only saw the one.  Let me look again.”  She scurried off.  She directed another optician to check downstairs.  Everyone was busy.  No one found my second pair of glasses.

But of course, to me, the missing glasses were not my “second” pair.  The bifocals were to be my primary pair.  The computer glasses were whipped cream on the sundae, a treat for myself.  But that was all they had for me today.  

Dear God, I thought.  I’ve been here five times, I’ve met nearly every member of their large staff.  Why hadn’t they waited for both pairs to come in before they called me?  Why was it assumed that I was the one who should have asked if both pairs had arrived?  After all, the word “glasses” was a bit of a problem, wasn’t it, being as it served a singular and plural function all at the same time.  How was I to know? 

“I can’t believe this,” I said to this, the latest in a long line of opticians I had encountered in this building.  “Everything that can go wrong has gone wrong.”

She smiled at me.  She was not there to listen to my story.  “I’m going to give the lab a call and I’ll get back to you later today.”  I opened my mouth, but she cut me off.  “I’ll give you a ring later today,” she reiterated.  I was dismissed.  I took my computer glasses, and I came home.

I don’t know if this story is interesting or amusing to you.  When I tell people in person I make it funny.  They laugh.  

In other news, last week, my home wifi went down and I was left without TV, land line, and internet for about 30 hours.  I did have my cell phone, so I was not bereft in this urban wilderness, but nonetheless I was frustrated.  I called the cable company on my cell and had several annoying conversations.  When I tell that story, people gasp and snort and sigh in frustration with me.  And yet, c’mon, it was only a day and a half.  None of these things are such a big deal.

Yet these are the stories of our 21st century lives:  dealing with red tape, bureaucracies, utility companies, and government entities.  We have all had these experiences.  They are like our modern quest stories, labyrinthian tales of the spiritual journey, encountering sirens and tricksters like the impersonal robotic voices that answer the phone, testing us as we seek to navigate to the next level of awareness, as if a half hour on hold listening to smooth jazz is something akin to the dark night of the soul.

And now it seems the Delta Variant wants us to mask up and distance and maybe even sequester ourselves again.  I feel sad and confused.  But the Universe says, Wait.  You have to wait.  Eventually you will see clearly again.     

Photo by John Redman

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