Thursday, August 28, 2014

COLUMN: Vision Pt. 3

When I found out last month that I needed glasses, I never expected to be babbling about it for three columns in a row. Sorry, everybody. But as it turns out, the spectacle of my new spectacles has been pretty spectacular. It's all I can focus on, and it's all I CAN'T focus without. Worse yet, I can't even figure out if they're working properly. All I know is that I hate them.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about my eye exam. Last week, I wrote about picking out the frames. I thought that would be the end of all the hard stuff. It turns out it was just the beginning. After settling on a pair of frames and making good on the bill, the glasses were mine -- except that they weren't. This being my first foray into professional eyewear, in my naivety I guess I just assumed they'd pull the finished glasses out of the ether, stick them on my face, and I'd suddenly be a happy and quite literal visionary. Of course it doesn't work that way.

First, the lenses needed to be ordered and made. Then, using high tech precision equipment, the finished lenses are inserted into the frames. Once everything looks ship-shape, only then do I get the phone call to come pick up my geeky new fashion accessory.

The moment the optician put the glasses on my head, I knew what was coming.

"Oh, wow, they're really sitting crooked on you!"

Yep. Tell me something I don't know.

The human body is an amazing machine. Whether you favor evolution or intelligent design, you've got to admit that the end result is nothing less than a genetic masterpiece and the one true wonder of this world. The top part of MY body, though, is more like what happens when the intelligent designers decide to knock off early and play with a Mr. Potato-Head.

My ears are uneven. REALLY uneven. By a noticeable margin, my left ear sits higher on my head than my right. As a result, any pair of glasses that sit naturally on my ears end up going across my face at a 20 degree slant. The only recourse is to radically twist the frames to get them to fit my stubbornly asymmetrical head. This also explains why I usually end each summer with a pile of broken sunglasses, because I'm constantly bending the frames until they snap.

"Now, you may experience a moderate fishbowl effect until you get used to wearing them," she explained to me. "Just give it a few days."

I've now given it a few days, and one thing's for sure: if you have fish in a bowl in your house, KILL THEM NOW. Take Goldie and Mr. Flipper and just launch them down your toilet to a watery grave... because if those poor creatures are seeing what I've been seeing for the past two weeks, death is the only humane solution.

"Fishbowl effect" doesn't begin to describe the weirdness. With the glasses on, I have no depth perception, except when I'm watching TV and it looks like EVERYTHING is in 3D. It feels like the glasses are literally trying to suck my right eye out of its socket. The minute I put them on, I get weird vertigo, which is the very condition that led me to the optometrist in the first place.

Still, everyone told me it'd be weird at first and I'd eventually get over it, so I gave it the old college try -- for about 3 hours. Then I realized something was REALLY off. My phone rang and I went to pick it up, and was a little distracted by the fact that the screen was no longer rectangular. With the glasses on, it was more like a trapezoid - small on the left, big on the right. The more I paid attention, EVERYTHING was trapezoidal. This was more than a "fishbowl effect," this was straight up funhouse-mirror wonkiness. I took the glasses back the next day and they went to run some tests on the lenses.

"Well, first off, one of the lenses is chipped already."

What the...? But she was right. One of the lenses had a tiny chip at the base of the frame, exactly at the spot where the other optician had spent countless minutes bending them the day before. So they took the glasses back and ordered a new pair. This was the start of the fun.

Pair #2 arrived three days later, but before I could pick them up, one of the lenses shattered while the optician was putting it into the frame. Five days later, pair #3 showed up. Those lasted in my hands for about 45 minutes when I noticed that they, too, had a chip in the exact same spot. Pair #4 just showed up yesterday. So far, no chips. This time, the manager installed the lenses herself while I watched, and got to see her use the aforementioned high tech precision installation equipment first-hand -- which turned out to be a thumbtack and some fishing line (wing and a prayer sold separately.)

For now, I'm still living in a trapezoidal wonderland. They want me to give it a full week or two before I consider getting re-checked for a new prescription, so I'm typing this by pushing little trapezoid keys while staring at a trapezoid screen.

Worse yet, I think they're right. I went online to see if others had experienced the same problem. I had only typed "TRAPEZ" into a search engine before it tried to fill it in with "TRAPEZOID EFFECT NEW GLASSES." It appears I'm not the only one. From what I've read, in a case like mine where one eye has bad astigmatism while the other is still fairly decent, your brain has had years of practice at compensating for the bad vision -- and suddenly when that vision is fixed with glasses, your brain is STILL trying to compensate for what it thinks is a weaker eye, and hence it causes the trapezoid thing.

So I'm going to give it some time and spend the coming weeks trying to get used to it. Thanks to my newfound lack of depth perception, I already stepped in a hole this weekend and sprained my ankle. Good times so far. So if you see me out and about walking like a Weeble Wobble, I promise you I'm not drunk. If I bump into you, I swear I'm not trying to cop a feel. And if I stare at you funny, it's only because you look like a trapezoid. If this is what perfect vision is like, I might just prefer the blur.

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