COLUMN: November 24, 2016

A pair of broken glasses (not author’s own)

I HAVE been avoiding little messages for a few months now, little reminders which pop up in my email, or in my actual mail. They started with “Your eye test is due soon”, moved on to “Your eye test is due”, and became “Your eye test is overdue.”

It is like holding onto a runaway hot-air balloon, knowing that if you let go of the rope, you will fall, but also aware that the longer you leave it, the harder you will hit the ground. Avoidance is my default setting when dealing with difficult situations.

But this week, a bird flew into my armpit, forcing me to let go of the rope.

I was at my desk at the beginning of my shift, doing whatever it is I do for a living, tapping away on a keyboard, and moving a mouse, appearing to passers-by as if I know what I do for a living, when I heard a sound, something between a ping and a boing, somewhere around my temple.

I am not a trained medic, but even I knew that sounded like bad news. And then I had a terrible pain in my eye. “Oh, dear,” I thought, “am I having a stroke?”

No, I was not having a stroke, readers. What had happened is that one of the lenses of my glasses had sheared away from part of its housing and had now taken up residence on the surface of my eye.

I have never fancied the idea of wearing contact lenses, and if this was any indication, I was right.

I removed my glasses. This was not so much a transformation of Clark Kent into Superman, and more Clark Kent into Colonel Blink: The Short Sighted Gink from the Beezer.

If I squinted I could see my computer screen, which was fine, but I also looked baffled by the idea of words, which is not ideal when one works in newspapers. “Where are your glasses?” a succession of colleagues asked me, before assuring me that things could not possibly be that bad.

I showed them. “Can’t you just fix them?” they asked. It turned out I could not. The springiness of the frame which previously kept the lens in place also prevented glue from working.

“Don’t you have a spare pair?” they asked. I began to tell them the story of my recreational walk in the rain which culminated in the destruction of my other pair under the wheels of several vehicles, but they stopped me. “Of course you don’t,” they interrupted.

There was nothing for it. I let go of the balloon and booked an eye test for the following morning at my usual opticians. My optician is great, I thought. I started going there about 12 years ago, almost entirely because it had a same-day service. I won’t say the name of the company, but it’s along the lines of Super Speedy Glasses.

I could cope for 24 hours without glasses, I thought. I would be asleep for eight of those. This would be fine. I just needed to get through one day of looking as if everything confused me.

My eye test passed without incident, and I went into the main shop to choose my frames. You will be pleased to know I picked a tasteful, non-comedy pair.

And then I sat with the sales assistant, who went through the range of options which were not part of the basic package but which everybody needs.

Has anybody ever said, “No, I don’t think I will have the anti-glare protection, as glare is one of my favourite things?” Opticians these days are like budget airlines. “Oh, you want to sit INSIDE the plane? That’s another £23.”

When she had stopped adding things to the bill, the sales assistant told me my glasses would be ready some time in the next seven days.

“No, I’d like the same-day service, please,” I said.

“I’m sorry, we don’t do that any more,” she said.

My eyes creased up. No longer was I simulating confusion. “But that is your selling point. That’s the only reason I came here.

“Your name is Super Speedy Glasses. That’s like British Airways getting out of the airline business and going into cupcakes, but still being called British Airways.”

The shop assistant smiled at me beatifically. I was clearly not the first.

So I have to manage for a week without glasses. I should avoid me if I were you.

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