Column March 24, 2010: I can see clearly now the pain has gone

IF YOU want to feel old and a bit rubbish, I highly recommend going for an eye test. Hand over £50 and you can confirm that you can’t see properly any more.

I can’t complain about the professionalism of my optician, neither in her conduct nor in her ability to extort money I had no idea I was going to shell out.

But I really don’t like tests, especially ones I know I’m going to fail. I mean, I’ve worn glasses all my life.

“Sit there,” said my pleasant examiner, “And rest your chin on there.” That was nice of her. My chin needed a rest after being agog at the price of some of the designer frames.

It was just like being at school and looking through the railings at the outside world. She flashed a few bright lights at me and puffed air in my eye. She said it was to test the strength of my muscles, but I reckon it was just to see if she could make me cry. Like I say, just like being at school.

“Would you like me to take a picture of the back of your eyes?” Too flipping right, I thought. How cool is that? More to the point, how was she going to get a camera in there?

“Good. Oh, there’s an extra charge.” FLASH! Another bright light. An orange veiny orb appeared on her computer screen. It was my eye, either that or a close-up of a female body builder.

Having broken my spirit, she took me into the testing room. I sat in the dentist-style chair.

“Do you have any trouble with floaters?” she asked.

“I beg your pardon.”

“In your eye. Do you have any trouble with floaters in your eye?”

“Not that I’m aware of.”

“Can you read the bottom line?” Blimey, I thought. If I could read that bottom line, I wouldn’t be sitting here. I’d be counting grains of sand on the surface of Jupiter. I’ve just come in WEARING GLASSES. What do you think?

“Er, no,” I said.

“Have you ever thought about contact lenses?” I wrinkled my nose. I had but only in the same sense as I’ve thought about having a full body wax. It seems like a lot of discomfort for something nobody else would even notice.

She moved in with what she thought would be the clincher. “Well, to be honest, with your very poor right eye, you’d only need one.”

Excellent, I thought. A monocle that only works when I put it in my eye, you say? I can’t even shower without having a towel nearby in case I get a bit of soap in – how likely is it that I’d voluntarily shove a shard of hard plastic onto my eyeball?

“No,” I said. “I’m a glasses wearer. I’ve worn specs all my life. It’s part of my identity. People use it as short-hand when referring to me. ‘See Gary over there, him with the glasses?’ ‘What, the weird-looking speccy one with the towel?’ ‘Yeah, him.’ That’s me.”

She went quiet.

Anyway, the good news was that my eyesight hadn’t changed. The bad news was that it was still rubbish. I staggered downstairs to look at the frames for my new specs. But there were two choices, essentially: invisible and very very visible. Dammit, I thought, I’m a glasses wearer. I’m not going to apologise for it. Say it loud, I’m a four-eyes and I’m proud.

I chose a frame and waited in the sales area while the helpful assistant found as many charges as she could to add onto my bill. 

“When will they be ready?” I asked.

“We’ve an hour service. That’s an extra £5 .”

“Great! I’ll have that.”

“They’ll be ready at 3pm.”

“But it’s noon.”

“Yes, but you want super-duper techno lenso magic.”

“But you’ve just told me I need that.”

Defeated, I left and returned three hours later. I wore my new, very very visible specs to work. “Are you wearing those for a bet?” asked a colleague.

“What do you mean?”

“Those glasses. I didn’t know you wore glasses.”

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