Both my parents wear glasses, which is ironic because they both blindly staggered through the act of parenthood*. I always found spectacles incredibly funny and pathetic in a way you only can when you’re young and whole.
I started getting headaches at work. Initially I thought it was brought on by hearing people say things like “what’s your favourite question?” while I was trying to work out how to kill myself using only the wire linking the keyboard to my antiquated computer.
The first time I went to have my eyes tested was fairly uneventful compared to what was to come. So there I was – on the way to my first optician’s appointment in well over a decade. I walk into Boots the Optician proudly. “What do you want?” says a teenager behind the desk. Used to such naked hostility, I press on. The following happened:
“Hello**, I have an appointment for the optician”
“Okay, what’s your name?”
[Ambient computer tapping noise]
“We can’t find you in the system…”
[Takes out appointment card. The card has a Specsavers logo on it]
“I think I’ve got the wrong day”
“No, we just searched the name and it’s not anywhere in the system.”
“I have to go”
[Exit stage left]
I then continued down the road to Specsavers. They did have evidence of my appointment; by virtue of me having one. A little over a fortnight later I was the proud owner of a pair of glasses. This was nearly three years ago. Here is what I’ve learnt.
GLASSES SHOPS ARE EVIL RETAIL GENIUSES***
If – like me – crippling self-awareness hampers you, you will hate picking a pair of glasses. When it first happened I had no idea I had to just choose glasses then and there, in the aftermath of the revelation that my eyesight was appalling.
I stood gaping in horror at the endless columns of glasses. I stood stock still for a whole three minutes before the shop assistant asked me if I wanted her to leave me alone. I said yes****. Eventually, shamefully, I began trying on glasses. In broad daylight. In a non-empty shop. A non-empty shop that actively encourages its patrons to look at things.
I was now also so paranoid about my poor sight that I didn’t trust myself to evaluate glasses frames clearly. How could I need glasses to see fine details and yet trust my failing eyesight to identify glasses that didn’t make me look like a knob?
Eventually I found a pair and after trying them on for a millisecond decided they would do. More eventually still I attracted***** the shop assistant’s attention. “Do you like these ones?” she asked, “Yes” I replied. “Well, try them on then.” “I’m sorry?” “Try them on.” To this day I don’t know why I was made to do this. I also don’t know why, when she responded positively, I didn’t say, “I don’t actually give a shit what you think.” I also don’t know why she called another shop assistant over to look at me in my glasses. And why, when she responded positively, I didn’t say, “I don’t actually give a shit what you think.”
Beyond even that though I don’t know why this shop assistant took a photo of me wearing my glasses but I can only assume it’s for some special Whatsapp group the employees of Specsavers have called ‘Freaks in Their New Glasses’ or ‘I Can’t Believe They Bought These.’
When I returned two weeks later to pick up my snazzy new glasses I was made to try them on again and the assistant went and got two other members of staff from a backroom to look. It as at this point I began to believe that this process, the Whatsapp group and all that proceeded were one of those psychological tricks used by shops to make you panic and not question the quality or price of anything you buy.
That was until I spoke to fellow glasses wearers who assured me they’ve never had their photos taken by the staff of Boots the Optician******.
GLASSES CAN’T SOLVE EVERYTHING
I was lucky enough to not have to wear glasses at school so I was only bullied on account of my other physical features and my personality. I was as such unprepared for the trials and tribulations of having glasses. Seventeen minutes into my first shift wearing glasses I got called a “specky twat.” Later that day I was called “four-eyes.” I thought having glasses would mean people finally gave me the respect I deserved and they’d know instantly how smart I actually are. I feel they lend me an air of sophistication.
On an unrelated note, one day I trod on my glasses. I’d managed to drop pasta on my shirt and was walking to the kitchen to put a fistful in the bin. A small screw had fallen out and after spending a fortnight with them taped up I realized I liked being looked at in the office even less than being ignored entirely.
I returned to Specsavers the Optician and asked them to fix my glasses. To my surprise they agreed. The following is another happy exchange:
“They look wonky, try them on”
“That’s just my face”
“Yes well, we’re all different.”
I told someone that to someone and they said that was a kind thing to say.
EYE TESTS ARE WEIRD
I recently went for my first optician’s appointment as a glasses wearer. At work there were free eye tests, I dutifully signed up and within a week I found myself in a truck in a car park. I’ve never before seen a medical professional operate from a truck or even drive one. I’ve sadly come to the conclusion that they operate like snake oil salesmen who need to get the hell out of Dodge as soon as the townsfolk cotton on to their swindle.
I climbed into the truck/death cab and a man said a man looked at me. He then said “who are you?” which was a level of existentialism I was not expecting. After more rudeness I was ushered into the front-back part of the truck where the eye exam would take place.
I sat in the chair and awaited my fate. After the initial introduction (when I was asked ridiculously specific, technical questions about my prescription that surely only an optician would know) the optician span round in his chair to begin. In doing so he dropped a pen/torch/scalpel and bent down to get it. My decrepit eyes followed his movement to the floor and I saw something that baffled me. In the corner of the room (on a truck lest we forget) was a neatly folded blanket with a tin of tuna perched on top. Not a moment has passed since when I haven’t wondered what this meant.
The tin of tuna, okay, it’s an odd thing to keep in your office/Thunderdome but it could at least be the lunch of a medical man who works out of the back of a truck. The blanket, however, is baffling to me still. I understand people do get cold in certain situations but I don’t know anyone who could not survive an eye exam without the aid of a blanket on the knees. An idiot friend of mine suggested it might be for people to cover up after being naked which speaks far more about his own life than mine. After many sleepless nights I am forced to conclude, until further notice, that this particular optician sleeps and/or lives in his eye van.
Then the exam began. Eye exams are weird enough when taken in isolation. They’re bizarre and invasive things even when not practiced out of the back of a van. This one was particularly odd. There was a brief and ill-tempered exchange when we differed on which lens I could see better out of, to test my eye reflexes I was made to follow a porcelain stick with a beautifully detailed picture of a parakeet on and to test my reading skill I was given a Thomas the Tank Engine book. This can all easily be dismissed as him thinking me an imbecile/child. Then there was the light test bit.
My few remaining friends would be the first to tell you that even with the best will in the world I am not a trained medical professional. And yet I feel confident enough to offer some advice to opticians for the dark bit. This is the worst bit, we all hate it so please – do NOT chew gum. The sound of a stranger chewing gum in my ear is coruscating to my soul. Also, again, I reiterate the above that I am not medically trained but I do not care how close you think you need to be to see into my eyes, there is never any reason for your HUMAN EYEBROW TO TOUCH MY FOREHEAD. In fact that goes for everyone, not just opticians. He was so close he was nearly out the other side of me. In the darkest recesses of my memory I remember soothing myself through the ordeal by repeating this mantra in my head: “he has long eyebrows, he has long eyebrows, he has long eyebrows...” And yet when the lights came back up I was looking at a man with some of the shortest eyebrows I’d ever seen.
I then had to exit and just carry on with my life like the world was okay. I then had to choose yet another pair of glasses. Shakily I decided on a pair and when I was told they were a popular style I simply shrugged.
Maybe then it’s my fault. Maybe it’s perfectly normal for an eyebrow to touch a forehead, for your face to be wonky and for Specsavers staff members to take photos of you for their personal use. I see it clearly now.
*This is a joke
**You might not know this if you’re not as well adjusted as me socially but this is a great way to start an interaction with a person
***It’s not genii you mega-twat. We don’t speak Latin
****That goes for every human being I’ve ever met
*****Not like that. She may well have been attractive though, not that my stupid eyes would ever let me know.