“My god, it’s full of stars.” This is what I said when I put on my new glasses. The optometrist chuckled in the way that people chuckle when they sincerely wish you would just stop talking so they can go back to hoping you won’t talk to them. I’m guessing the reference to the 1984 movie 2010 (Roy Sheider, Helen Mirren) was lost on him. Not that I was being chatty, much like this paragraph, but it was the end of his day and he’d had enough of other people’s googly eyes and banter. Rather than embracing the notion I just wasn’t that clever, I decided to assume this guy was a cinematic Philistine.
For the last 15 years I’ve been using “cheaters,” a delightful dysphemism I use instead of the clunky and drawn out phrase “Reading Glasses.” Seems I was damned lucky to make it to 57 years old needing nothing more than the three-for-$18 Costco specs they sell next to the books, or by the men’s underwear, or between the nuts and beef jerky, depending on the week (Costco shoppers know what I mean). But, I was driving home from Buddy’s place, which involves a bit of a twisty trek along a country road. I kept remarking how badly marked the road is and how dirty my windshield must be, etc. Granted, it was dark and…well, it was just dark. Even without rain, fog, swarming bees, my freshly refurbished headlights with the snazzy new “piss off oncoming traffic” bulbs were not lighting my path well enough for me to even nudge against the speed limit. Time to get the eyes checked. Buddy, who’s scaring the hell outta 80 years-old and has endured my lack of sensitivity about his night vision, will enjoy this bit of comeuppance.
Sitting in that dark little room, the dude in the white coat chanted the “this one or that one” chant. My right eye was so good from where I was sitting I could read the advertisement on the calendar on the outside of the room. With my left eye I couldn’t even read the first line of the chart. I was told that this was not optimal.
Seconds after I got my new glasses on, I was tripping balls. Everything was so … three-dimensional. There was a whole new world that started about 20 feet away from me—a world I hadn’t seen in a long time. We’ll just not touch on the fact I’d been driving like this for a while ... I could read signs again! I felt like I’d been dosed with a powerful hallucinogenic that altered my reality. Everything was moving. There was so much to see! I had to remove my new glasses to get a break from the sensory overload. I thought I might score some Owsley and see if that would balance things out.
Walking down the sidewalk, I noticed many people smiling and nodding at me. That means for years I was ignoring these simple kindnesses because I couldn’t see them. How many people around town think I’m a colossal dick because I never acknowledged them? It’s the details, man: That guy has a beard and is not wearing a black bandana bank-robber style. That young woman’s eyebrows are drawn on! She doesn’t naturally look that surprised. That kid is sucking a sucker and not smoking a cigarette, thank goodness. I guess that’s just a tattoo on that older fellow, and not a real snake. I’ll see if I can ratchet down my cortisol levels. When the hell did everyone get nose piercings? Thanks to topographical relief sported by some of the more form-fitting bicycle pants, I created a game I like to call “Guess That Guy’s Religion.” I actually had to remove my glasses while talking to someone to see who the hell they were. I knew the voice but I was drilled in on an earring that was actually a small motorcycle. This is a nice contrast to having caught myself staring at the graphic on someone’s t-shirt only to realize, to my horror, that I was bent over and staring intently at a woman’s chest. I was having so much trouble seeing the art she thought I was authenticating the canvas. Though I made it into a joke, it was neither cute or funny. So not only have I endangered public safety with my blind driving, I was now being unintentionally disrespectful. Yeah, but trifocals?
To know me is to know I love motorcycling as much as I do movies. In the last few years I have reduced my miles on the big bikes and have been riding more “adventure” oriented motorcycles. They are kind of like a big-ass off-road bike with manners. What’s so handy about them is if I veer off the pavement and find myself plowing through a sheep pasture, I can claim it was intentional since I ride a bike made for such a thing. This way I can avoid a pesky admission that I couldn’t see the fog line and unintentionally went “adventuring.” It wasn’t because I like high tech that I got a motorcycle with ABS. I mean, I still have a problem with my Vespa having fuel injection. I got the ABS to give me a fighting chance when the back of a car appears out of nowhere in stop-and-go traffic and I happen to get to the front brake before the rear. When I fail to note the train tracks and hit them at full speed on my touring bike, I get a nice Harley logo shaped bruise emblazoned on my ass followed by the indignity of trying to pretend I meant to do that. Pulling such a stunt on the adventure bike means I get to tell myself I’m glad I was on the adventure bike, and that I meant to do that.
Rather than feeling the tides of youth receding to expose the rocky shores of old age, I have to say: this being able to see again stuff is good for me. I feel like I’ve reclaimed to a big chunk of my world that had been taken away through a process similar to the decidedly un-vegan analogy of boiling a frog (which is bullshit, according to science). The sudden explosion of resolution and contrast fed into my brain by my optic nerves is overwhelming, but worth the occasional adrenal dump when I realize that really is a big spider and not a dust bunny between the radiator and the recycle bin. Oh great, I can see its face and it’s pissed.
And no, I’m not getting my hearing checked next.