After sixteen consecutive weeks of wearing my last pair of “daily wear” contacts, I was forced to schedule an appointment for my “annual” eye exam. I had successfully avoided a check up for two and a half year (my personal best), but the time had come to replenish my depleted lenses repository. The game was up.
I postponed an eye exam not because of my natural bend toward procrastination, but as a deliberate act of protest. I hoard my lenses like a survivalist stockpiling organic radish seeds, merely for retaliation…Retaliation against the insurance companies who monopolize the corrective lenses industry. Retaliation against the ophthalmologists, as their drones, who will not write anyone a prescription, even if it’s the same prescription, if it has been more than twelve months since their last eye exam. Oh, yes…and retaliation against the retail vision centers that treat two-year-old prescriptions like expired milk. Try telling any of these optical gods that your vision hasn’t changed and you will be labeled ignorant, called a liar, or asked where you received your Doctorate of Optometry. After you have been demoralized, you are forced make an appointment, submitting to the ever-rising annual co-pay as they dangle the fantasy of fresh lenses as an enticement. Therefore, as a form of personal protest, I stand blindly and do not take the bait, until all my optical options have been spent.
Alas, I knew that time had arrived, as I dug in the blurry bowels of my bathroom cabinet hoping to unearth some extra pair of lenses I had in sixth grade to no avail. SIDE NOTE: .5, 2.0, 5.5, exact prescription strength matters not, in a bind. I can raise those hard, warped, tiny orbs from the dead when I am trying to prove a point. A little peroxide, saline, a voodoo chant, and voila! New eyes resurrected from 1978.
On this particular day, wearing my mummified, weak ass, disco-era contacts, my eye sockets were bone dry and I was experiencing extreme blurriness. My final lenses were in their death throws, and my cupboards wert bare. The down side of long gaps between appointments is I always forget the name of the ophthalmologist I saw last. No problem. I just pick up the phone book, hold it extremely close to my face, and squint down rows of names in the yellow pages. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe …Hell, they all do the same thing; all I need are my tinted Royal Blue Focus Daily Wear Lenses, 5.0. Begrudgingly, I will jump through their hoops…look into that machine and answer confusing questions. “Are the numbers clearer here….or here? Is this better, or is this better?” Honestly, there is not a damn bit of difference. Really, it’s like looking at sheep, one looks just like the other. And give me something to look at besides numbers. Numbers do not interest me. Whether it’s a two or a five, a three or an eight; I just don’t care, and I will say anything just to make the numbers stop. Show me something worth looking at….maybe, SHOES! If they would show me rows of shoes, I could pick out even the most subtle differences.
1” kitten heel from 1 ½” spike…. swing back pump vs. sling back peep toe….copper or bronze?” Now those are questions I could answer with certainty.
But on with my story…I chose Doctor X simply because he sported the biggest ad in the yellow pages, and I could read the office number. When I made the appointment, I was asked if I had ever seen Doctor X before. I answered truthfully and politely, by responding, “I don’t know, have I?” And the receptionist, who must have thought I was being a smart ass, said, “This is important information, ma’am. Have you ever been to our office or not?” I floundered…“Maybe, maybe not. Can you check for me? And, God knows, don’t search by last name. I have had several and sometimes even I get confused. Let me just give you my social security number.” After several minutes, Ms. Sunshine determined that I had never been a patient at Doctor X’s establishment, meaning I would have to fill out all the new patient forms. I was instructed to arrive 15 minutes prior to my appointment time, so I could get through the mass of documents.
I arrive on the correct day of my appointment. I thought I deserved a prize for that. Granted, I was not a full fifteen minutes ahead of schedule, but Ms. Sunshine (yep, working the reception desk) didn’t need to loudly scorn me in front of other patients. Where was my right to confidentiality? How do you even contact the HIPAA police? The entire waiting room stared at me as if I was the sole reason that the appointments were backed up.
So I blindly rush through the reams of paperwork, thinking, why must I answer these pointless questions? What does my alcohol consumption have to do with my optical health? “Who do we contact in case of an emergency?” How the hell do I know….Annie Sullivan? What kind of frickin’ procedures do they perform here that would render me incapable of making a medical decision?
Paperwork complete, I tossed the epic through the window while HER head was turned (probably on the backside of a 360). I was relieved when one of my names was finally called, and I was able to leave the glaring, hate-filled stares of the other patients in the waiting room.
Seated in the exam room, I went through the routine…pealing my dying lenses from my corneas and entrusting them to the case provided by the assistant, telling the assistant that I forgot to bring my glasses, and struggled through the numbers questions. Then, she said follow me to the adjacent room. “Where exactly are you?” I asked. Without my contacts, it was like being on a psychedelic mushroom trip… I would imagine. Colors blending and moving, I tried to follow the assistant through an indistinct, but beautiful, haze. I could have easily stumbled, fell, and hit my head on some blurred object leaving me unconscious. Ah…thus the reason for the emergency contact question….
When I met Dr X, he looked in my eyes (I presume) and said, “You need torque lenses.” Acid flashback ten years when I attempted those devil lenses. “No,” I said. “They make me nauseated.” “I have never heard of that,” he said. “Yeah, well, try leaving a professional conference with your boss and driving down a curvy mountain road, hung over, with your lenses rotating in random directions, independently of each other.
I bet you would be forced to stop on the side of the road four times to hurl. That little experiment brought down my evaluation for two years!” “Hummmm…Perhaps other factors influenced your predicament,” he said. Oh no you dit unt! “The torques have been perfected. They don’t move when you blink, now. Besides, with your astigmatism, you need torques for your best vision.” I wish I could see you now…so I could get you in my crosshairs….
After a few more minutes of “discussion,” I reluctantly agreed to give the torques another chance. The fact that I was blind and could not find the Exit sign weighed heavily on my decision. If he was wrong, Doctor X could afford a hefty carpet cleaning bill, I thought, with my co-pay and all.
So, I put the lenses in my eyes. The heavens opened up and sunlight streamed through the ceiling tiles…It was truly an epiphany. I COULD SEE! And no nausea. Wow. What exquisite details….
And there was Doctor X., not at all what I expected…young, olive skin and ebony hair. How long do you have to go to school to be an eye doctor, anyway? At the moment, it mattered not. I was basking in the sharp angles and brilliant colors of the world…Then I literally saw the shit hit the fan. “Your prescription is too strong for colored torque contact lenses,” Doctor X said as he perused the computer screen. “Oh, no! I must have my royal blue eyes. They are essential to my keen sense of fashion…. Keep looking,” I said. “Nope. No luck. Not with a power of 5.0, a cylinder of -1.5, and an axis of 23 degrees.” “Search another longitude and latitude, Doc…I need Royal Blue.” Nerd boy.
He had the audacity to then say, “tinted lenses are not as popular as they once were. People just aren’t wearing them anymore.” Sure. And they aren’t getting boob jobs, either. “I don’t care what other people wear. Without my royal blue lenses, my eyes are stone gray and unattractive...corpse-like, really. At 45, I have to use all the illusions I can buy to enhance my face. Just give me my old prescription of Focus 2 Week SoftColors Contact Lenses…Royal Blue.” “Well I guess you could have both lenses, and wear the blue ones as accessories, you know like when you were going out to a club or something.” A club? Really? Why don’t you just run back across to the Sesame Street Science Lab from which you surely originated. "Just don't drive wearing them." Okay, enough, Baljeet.
All torqued up, I left in a raging huff….Until I stepped outside and experience Technicolor with 20/15 vision. The world seemed brighter and clearer, and my sarcasm began to fade, briefly. Maybe I wasn’t depressed after all. I can actually read street signs and see children playing dangerously close to the road. Maybe now I could even try to stop the Beetle before I passed the stop signs? Maybe…just, maybe… I could live with these new eyes…even if they weren’t royal blue. My trip back from Doctor X’s office was very enlightening. I realized that people were not actually selling funnel cakes from random houses in my community. Those sign actually read, “SLOW Funeral Ahead.” Oh, and it is Ron Paul my neighbor wants running for President in 2012, not RuPaul.
So, with the exception of my work-wife Julie who said my new eyes make me look “high,” very few people have noticed. In fact, I think some folks might be jealous. Just the other day I shared the gripping drama of my new bionic eyes with my BFF Melanie, expecting her to share in my celebration of enhanced vision. Instead, she freaked. “BITCH…for two years I have let you drive my ass through metropolitan shopping districts at night! For two years I just thought you got ditzy on the high of retail therapy and all this time you COULD NOT SEE?!” God, it is always the ones you love who hurt you most….