A Learning Curve

The car pulled into the drive and George yawned and got out. It had been a long week, and he was looking forward to some serious downtime over the weekend, maybe even a spot of hockey. Certainly a night out with his buddies, it had been a while and they'd had to remind him they still existed.

"Hey man," the call had been from Mike "You fallen off the planet? We still meet every saturday night at Bassey's place."

| George had tentatively agreed to make the effort, pleading hard work, and yet another 3 weeks had gone by. But THIS weekend he'd promised himself he'd be there.

Opening the door the cat greeted him with demands for food. He threw the mail on the table, threw his coat over a chair and just fell into a chair. The money was great in this job, but there was never any time to spend it. The stressfactor was high, every night it seemed he came home with his head throbbing, and the only cure was sleep. Not that this was difficult to acheive, within half an hour he was out cold on the couch and the next he knew it was saturday morning.

Saturday was always catch-up day. Errands in every which direction, the only chance he had to go shopping, see his family across town, and do laundry. Determinedly he finished early for once and to a roar of welcome he walked into Bassey's bar that evening.

"It's really good to see you, have ANY idea how long it's been?" yelled Van.

"My God, the corporate slave escaped!" teased Marc.

George had to confess he'd lost track of time, but never expected to hear it had been 6 months since he saw them. A lot of things had changed among his friends, plenty of old relationships ended, new ones begun. George hadn't even had time for relationships.

"You'll be an old man if you keep this up, all wprk and no play." Mike had warned him. George shrugged it off, but after a few beers the truth will out and he let a few things out.

"To be honest Mike, it's not all that. The days all seem the same, I get no real sense of achievement, and I get so damn tense. I don't think it's doing me any good at all. I'll stick it out a few more months, put some more cash in the bank, then maybe look for something else. I do miss you guys, and I haven't got laid in.........."

His voiced trailed off as a tall slim blonde approached them.

"George, this is Martha, the love of my life, in fact....my fiancÈe.....", and Mike beamed.

George didn't quite know what to say. Just as he thought he'd rediscovered his old crowd, there was a woman in the way, dammit. But that's how it goes, can't expect the guys to stay single forever. After all they were all getting older now. Still, at least this one was pretty. Mike's previous girlfriend had worn glasses. George had never liked girls in glasses. He couldn't quite put his finger on why. They looked a bit uptight.

In fact George had always despised glasses. As a kid he remembered, half with guilt, half not, being one of those who teased those who wore them. There was no real reason why, nothing that made any sense anyway, but George had major self-esteem issues and anything he could use as a way of looking down on someone would work. Even through college, when he knew better than to deride, as some of his peers started to wear them, he thought they looked ridiculous, and he was convinced some of them only wore them to look smarter. But it was easy for him to be smug, he'd always had perfect eyesight, and now he was well past the danger age. Despite all his work being in front of a computer screen, he still had perfect eyesight. So he would show off at every opportunity by reading signs nobody else could. Nobody was actually impressed by this, but when you have an inner insecurity, you'll do anything to try to prove you're "better". Oh sure, he was popular. Always had been, but he was also terribly lonely, because he had such high expectations for friends. Those he did have had stuck by him over many years, accepted him as he was, and were always there for him when he remembered he needed them. Especially Mike. And yet.....he still needed to impress, even these diehards. Had to find a way to feel good, show off a bit.

That was probably the reason he'd started at Extremesoft. The salary was double anywhere else. He owned his own home, had a great car, all the toys. He was generous to a fault, often took the guys to sports events and concerts as treats, and always bought them lavish gifts at Christmas. Then last summer he'd been given an even better position, as head of project development. That was when his social life dried up.

Still, it didn't have to be forever. So he chatted amiably to Mike's lady, and had all-round a very pleasant evening. Sunday was spent working from home, and Monday was back to the grind. Despite all his promises he didn't make it to Bassey's again for several weeks.......

Things weren't getting any better, and eventually he gave in and went to his doctor. Fully expected to be told to work less hours or find a less stressful job, he was totally struck dumb by what his doctor said.

"When was the last time you had your eyes tested George?"

There was no quick answer to this, because the answer was never, but that sounded very remiss, but besides......he protested.....

"No, no, there's nothing wrong with my eyes, they're fine, it's just tension. You know."

"No, actually George, tension headaches are different, I think you should see an optometrist."

He was stunned. He walked up the hill and gazed down into the city center.

"Ridiculous," he said to himself, "I can read the street signs from up here."

But he had to rule it out to get any further help from his doctor, so he took himself into the optometrists to prove him wrong."

The test was nothing like he expected. No chart on the wall to read. Instead, the eye doctors put stinging drops into his eyes and then looked into them with various strange instruments. For a long time he said nothing and then scratched his head. George thought this was a good sign.

"You're farsighted," he was told. He thought this was good too. It was, after all, the opposite of nearsighted. Nearsighted people need glasses.

"That would explain the regular headaches you get. The thing is, I think you may have a problem if I give you the full strength straight away. We'll start with less, and you can ease into it gradually."

These words were not making any sense to George, and he actually asked,

"Full strength of WHAT?"

"Oh you definitely need glasses, but it's quite hard to relax your eyes into plus lenses at first, and you wouldn't be at all pleased with them if I prescribed fully at first."

Now it was sinking in, but still felt surreal, as if in a moment he'd wake up and find this was all a dream. But it wasn't, and totally oblivious of the whirling inside George's head, the eye doctor began taking measurements and making notes. Then as if fully insensitive, or at least that was how George saw it, he just handed over a prescription, and smiled.

"So these are for close work then?" he asked, knowing he could see just fine in the distance.

"Well, see how you go. I think you'll get used to them faster if you try wearing them all the time at least for the first few weeks." Of course doctors know where this leads to. Comfort.

George left speechless.

He stood outside on the street and watched the traffic.

"This is absurd," he said out loud, "I can see pefectly. Everything."

He looked at the prescription. It made no sense at all, just said +1.50, what did that mean? A very small number, he thought, probably meant nothing much at all. Typical optometrist, he thought, find something wrong with everyone, that's their job. I don't need glasses, he thought........

But as the day wore on, again the gradual headache took over him, and he realized it was centred on his eyes, and they did feel sore themselves. But glasses? George HATED glasses! He hated them on everyone, and he couldnt wear them himself. He just COULDN'T.

What he really wanted was someone to talk to, to counsel him. In his head all the glasses-wearers he'd ever ridiculed were now pointing and laughing at him. That night he dreamt he was wearing thick, ugly glasses and everyone was laughing.

Finally some sense came over him and decided to give it a try, privately, to see if it was really necessary. He bought the most fashionable glasses he could find, paid quite a bit for them, and the next day, which was sunday, which was work-from-home day, he gave them a trial run.

Putting them on at first was rather odd. Across the room was a blur, and his hands looked bigger. They felt different on his face compared to sunglasses, a much snugger fit. After a little while his eyes felt odd, and he took them off. But then the old familiar discomfort replaced it and he put them back on. After a while he looked up and noticed the distance blur wasn't so bad. And then deep in his work he just forgot he was wearing them, time passed, and he realized it was getting dark.

Then the strangest realization came over him. He'd worked solidly all day without a break and he had no headache. His eyes were a little sore, but not like usually. He was able to work even longer than usual. Finally when he decided it was time for bed, he took his glasses off and a reeling feeling came over him, his head spun.

Of course monday morning meant work, and people would have to see him wearing glasses for the first time. He didn't put them on straight away in the office, as a feeling of cowardice gripped him, but as he started work he realized yes, his eyes really were having to make an effort to focus that close. He put his glasses on and felt an immediate sense of relief. Well, he would stick it out, and take the comments as they came.

In fact the comments were mostly favorable, and in fact sparse. Some people said nothing at all, and those who did complimented him. He couldn't tell what they were thinking, but there were no signs of anyone laughing. At the end of the day he was again relieved to find his head felt good, and his eyes were only slightly sore. He put his glasses away in his pocket and went home. For the first time in months he felt up to doing things on a worknight. He had to admit to himself that maybe he really did benefit from wearing glasses.

Despite being advised to wear them all the time, in fact for the first few days he only wore them while working. But on friday evening he decided to try them for watching TV. The distance blur was slowly improving, and he found that the TV was in good focus when he wore them, in fact it felt much better to watch it while wearing them.

By the end of the second week he decided he would try to wear them all the time just to see how it felt. The more he wore them the better his could see into the distance, and he started to really feel a strain if he tried to focus on anything closer than about 4 feet away when hewasn't wearing them. The dawning realization came that these were NOT just for close work.

The oddest thing of all was that he was feeling so much better, less stressed. It was as if the ease in his eyes was affected his whole body. He wasn't so tired at the end of the day, and was actually working harder - but more efficiently. After a few weeks he'd totally got used to the idea of wearing glasses all the time, and was wearing them to drive, the distance blur had virtually gone.

His eye doctor had told him to come back in six months, but he couldn't wait. Curiosity got the better of him and he wanted to see what the next step was.

The doctor seemed a bit reluctant to offer up the full prescription so soon, but George insisted he was ready. In his own mind he just wanted to try it. He could always revert to the first pair if it was too much.

"What I had in mind really was 4 steps into your real refracted prescription. You will find the distance blur on this much harder to get used to. Driving would actually be dangerous to begin with. I don't recommend it at all."

"I'll take the train" George insisted, surprising himself a little at his own eagerness. He was just eager to see what "the whole deal" was going to be like. He didn't think it could be such a big difference.

But it came as quite a shock. His full prescription turned out to be +3, and when he first tried them on he immediately thought there had been a mistake. These glasses actually looked strong to him, and he felt people would notice that. The old nerves came back about being seen in them, but the weekend was ahead of him, so he gave them the trial run in private.

At first he was certain he couldn't cope with them, that his doctor had been right to suggest that he take incremental steps towards this strength. But as the day wore on the blur began to recede, first the floor came into focus, and then the TV, almost. His eyes felt very odd indeed, but not sore, it wasn't too hard to cope with. However when he took them off at the end of the day he found his head swimming again. Worse this time. And for a while at first his hands were out of focus. The next morning he seemed to have regressed a bit, but by evening he was able to watch TV without too much difficulty.

A strange determination came over him. He did take the train. He took it for 3 weeks, while he doggedly wore those glasses every waking moment. Then even though the distance hadn't totally cleared, he tried driving and found the more he concentrated on the distance, the better he could see. He got over the morning start by putting them on the moment he woke up, and not taking them off until he had laid down in his bed at night. It had become a game. He hadn't peeked at the world without his glasses on for a whole month, to ensure he got used to them as fast as possible. If he took his glasses off to wash his face or clean them, he closed his eyes. He was so proud of himself for sticking to this, that it became very important to him, and he never once gave in. Anyway, hie felt so GOOD. His head never hurt, the soreness in his eyes had gone completely, and even the muscles in his cheeks felt different. He felt like a new man. It was the best thing he'd ever done, AND he'd proven the doctor wrong. He COULD get used to the new glasses in one go. The distance was clear. He had done it.

But then the strangest thing happened. He forgot that he was playing the game. Aware if a smudge on his glasses while sitting at his desk at work, he idly took out a kleenex and went to clean them, but hedidn't close his eyes. At first he was justaware that he was watching while he cleaned them, and then he was aware how blurred they were, and he laughed to himself that he needed glasses to see if he'd cleaned his glasses properly. How quickly things close up had become impossible to see without them. But then he looked up. For the first time in weeks he looked across the room and saw - a blur.

George blinked. He gazed. He opened his eyes wide. He waited for the "just taken glasses off" blur to clear but it didn't. He squinted. Made no difference. He physically tried to focus, but nothing happened. It was like trying to wiggle his ears. He just couldn't find the muscle. He must have sat there a full 5 minutes waiting for it to change, but it didn't. He put his glasses back on and everything came into focus.

A sort of chill went over him. It had been fun until now. The nice relaxed feeling in his eyes, the game, the whole amusement factor. But now he couldn't focus, even across the room, without them. That wasn't supposed to happen, he was sure.

For the next few days he went through a sort of mourning as the reality of the situation sunk in. This was permanent. He couldn't just choose not to wear glasses now, and why had that not occurred to him before. He was dependant on them - and that bothered him.

Still, it was too late to do anything about it. Saturday came and he tried to go bare-eyed all morning to see if at least some of his focus would come back. He maybe a bit did, but it wasn't a great deal, and after a while the blur just annoyed him too much and he put his glasses back on. After a long deep sigh he decided to take it like a man, and in fact......

He arrived at Bassey's a bit late, feeling rather nervous. For a few moments Mike just looked at him blank, then realized who it was.

"My God George, I never knew you had bad eyes, how did I ever not know, did you always wear contacts or something?"

"Or something," said George, not wanting to explain. Mike graciously just let it drop. The others said nothing. Maybe they remembered how he used to be......

Then the biggest and best surprise of all, an old face. George hadn't seen Van's sister Amanda in years. She seemed pleased to see him, which was a double delight as despite the many times he'd shown interest in her she'd always been remote, and he'd virtually given up. Now she was chatting really easily to him, and he thought maybe time had mellowed her. Maybe she could tell he wasn't such a critical jerk as he had been when he was younger. He didn't try to impress her, he just relaxed and had a great evening. And at the end he summoned some courage and asked if she was free sunday for maybe a stroll on the beach....maybe. To his shock and extreme pleasure she said yes.

George's life had changed completely. He didn't have to give up his dream job, he was really enjoying it now. He'd changed in himself too, maybe he'd grown up. It had been quite the learning curve, from critic, to inquirer, to bespectacled man. He felt like he'd gained something, quite a lot. Things money can't buy. But Amanada, oh yes, she was the real prize. After a few weeks he felt safe in asking her whether his maturity had been what finally won her over, but she shook her head.

"No, actually, it's those glasses, that's what did it. I was smitten."

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