(This story was written by Emily and sent to Eye Scene on 27th July 2003. Later she told she would be pleased if Specs4ever continued. The next sequels of this story are in Emily - part 2 to 6. )
We were on summer vacation in Minnesota Everything had been fantastic in the Boundary Waters area that separates the US from Canada at mid-continent: cool weather, beautiful scenery, cool lakes to swim in, calm streams to canoe in, big fish to catch, great hikes to take – and since Minnesota is fairly flat, not too strenuous. Now, 2-1/2 weeks into a three-week trip, we were gradually wending our way home. We spent the first night southbound in Duluth, which bills itself as the largest inland seaport in the world. It’s 1,500 miles from the Atlantic Ocean yet ocean-going liners come in and out through the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes. Then came the second night. Now we were in Minneapolis, a city of about 3 million people. My brother, sister and I wanted to stay in a suburban motel, where we could just hang out, but our parents decided to go for a splurge and stay at the Hyatt Regency, the fanciest hotel downtown, so they could go to museums and the theater.
Last night, we all went to the theater to see a musical, which was okay – especially for our parents, who like bland music and inane plots. This morning, they wanted to take us to the art museum, but my 9-year-old brother, my 13-year-old sister and I didn’t feel going be dragged around to cultural things. After all, we live near Washington DC, which has the Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian, and all sorts of cultural attractions, and we go to them frequently. For God’s sake, this is a vacation! So mom and dad trucked off to the museum and the three of us got into our bathing suits and went to the pool. I got a towel from the rack, took off my flip-flops, put them on the floor under a beach chair, took off my glasses and put them neatly on top of the flip-flops, put on my off-the-shelf swim goggles that are close to my real RX, and dived in.
Everything was great for an hour or so, until my brother and sister decided they had been in the pool long enough. They had forgotten to take towels, and saw there was only one on the table by our stuff, so they each grabbed an end and had a tug of war. Well, next thing is, the beach chair got shoved aside and a moment later there was a sickening crunch as a foot landed squarely on my glasses. Before they started screaming at me, I knew exactly what had happened.
It was only 10 AM and our parents weren’t coming back until 1:00. Then we were going to check out of the hotel and start driving south, toward home. I knew I had to get glasses as soon as possible. I couldn’t wear swim goggles in public for the next three of four days, nor could I get by with my old pair of glasses that I had brought with me. Although those are only a year old, they are way too weak, as my eyes have changed considerably in the past year. They have an RX of R –5.00, L –4.50, and when I got them last August, I had 20/20 vision through them. But by March, I was only seeing 20/50 and got a stronger RX, R –6.25, L –6.00, that brought me back to 20/20. But since then, there has been some more deterioration. Now, I can only see 20/30 with my new glasses. That’s not too bad, but it means that I probably could only see 20/70 or 20/100 with the old ones. I couldn’t drive with them, and I’ve been doing one-third of the driving, sharing with my parents. It would be so disappointing to have to sit in the backseat all the way home! So I decided to take action.
The first thing I decided was to get a new exam. I wasn’t planning on having one for a few more months, but since I knew my RX had changed, I figured it made sense to get my current one as long as I was getting new glasses, instead of just having my old RX duplicated. Probably another -.50 in each eye, bringing my RX up to R –6.75 and L –6.50. I opened the Minneapolis Yellow Pages to the optical section and after a few phone calls found a place a few blocks away that did exams without an appointment. My brother and sister wanted to stay in the room and watch TV, but I made them get dressed and come with me as punishment, and I told them they would have to pay for my exam and glasses.
The optical place had two exam rooms and two eye Doctors. One was a middle-aged man and the other was a young woman, maybe 25 years old. There were three patients ahead of me in the waiting room and I had to wait about a half hour. One of the people ahead of me was a 14-year-old girl who was there to get new glasses for going back to school. Her mother was with her so I didn’t ask to try on her glasses, but her lenses seemed comparable to mine, about –6, and she looked very good in them. The other two people were older and had plus lenses. I had to wait about a half hour to be called, during which all sorts of thoughts went through my mind. Most of these thoughts involved whether I should go for my actual RX or try for stronger. Although I often have had reveries of cheating, I don’t think I would have had the guts to do it at home, where the Doctor knows me and has my records. But in this strange place, I realized it would be easier to get away with something, and I played out different scenarios in my mind. Finally I was called, and I was glad to see that the young woman doctor would examine me, because she would be less experienced and maybe not catch on to my games.
She took off my glasses and looked through them and pronounced me nearsighted, which I totally agreed with. She put them in the lensometer and wrote down the RX. Then she asked about my vision history and took notes as I made up some facts. I told her the glasses I was wearing were three years old and I had had two increases since then and would have needed another increase as soon as I got home, before school started. I told her my current ones had been smashed at the pool and the previous lenses had been in the same frame and I no longer had them, and that each RX had been stronger than the preceding one. “You must be quite nearsighted then,” she said, and I answered, “yes, I’m not sure about the numbers in my current RX but I think it’s something like –8.” “I understand,” she said. “I’m about –8 myself.” I asked her if she wore contacts and she said yes, and I asked her if that’s how she got interested in becoming an eye Dr. and again she said yes.
She gave me back my glasses and asked me if I could see anything on the chart. Actually, I could see the top three lines, E, FP, TOZ, which I knew would give me 20/100, but instead I squinted and said, “no, nothing.” “That’s what I thought,” she said. Then she moved the refraction machine in front of my face, clicked the dial for the right eye and then removed the blind so I could see through it. “This is weaker than you are used to,” she said. “We’ll go up little by little to find your current level. Tell me if things get better.” I don’t know what RX was in the machine, but it definitely was more than –6.25. My guess is that she had put a –7 or –7.50 lens in front of my right eye. For a moment, I felt like confessing that I was only –6.25, but I had already gone too far and there was no turning back without embarrassing myself. I was kind of scared about what I was getting myself into. So I moved my face back from the machine a little, and miraculously the chart was clear. I moved it back a little more, and I couldn’t believe it, I had made myself nearsighted, even with the overly-strong lens. “Which is better,” she asked, “A or B?” turning the dial up one click. “A” was even stronger, while “B” was the original lens. “A is better,” I said – and it was true! With my eyes back from the machine, the stronger lens really was better. After two or three clicks, the Dr. said, “now we’re at where you were with your old RX, so we can see how much change there has been in the past year.” Not once had she asked me to read the chart, only to tell her which was better. This made it easy for me to cheat. However, with my face back from the machine, I actually could see pretty well.
She clicked the dial up two more times and finally asked me to read the lowest line I could. I read the 20/30 line. Another click and I could see 20/25, and one more click made the 20/25 line better, but I could not make out the 20/20 line because the letters were too small. I told her that and she said she was not surprised, with that high a prescription it is not unusual not to be able to refract to 20/20. Then she said, “just to be sure, let’s trying going up one more notch,” but I told her that was too much and she backed down. Then she closed the blind on that eye. I asked her how I had done and she said I was –9 which was probably a little stronger than my old ones but not too much. “You remember the –8 part,” she said, “which I’m sure was right, but there probably was a decimal you don’t remember, like 8.25 or 8.50. You did fine!” I smiled and told her, “thanks.”
Then she clicked the dials on the left eye, and opened the blind. Since I still had my face back, the lens she started out with actually seemed too weak, not too strong. She went through a bunch of clicks until things seemed just right with my face back from the machine. I could actually make out the 20/20 line in my left eye. “Great!” she said, “I love it when I can correct highly myopic people to 20/20.” I agreed it was great and asked what my RX was in that eye. “Exactly the same as your right eye, -9,” she replied. Then she did a few other tests including a glaucoma test. “I just want to make sure your progression is not due to too much pressure in your eye,” she said. The test turned out fine, and the exam was over. It didn’t seem like as thorough an exam as my own doctor always gives me – thank God. She gave me my old glasses back and I put them on, and for a minute or two, I had the illusion that they really were 4 diopters too weak, having been looking through lenses so much stronger.
The store said it would take a week to make my glasses because the lenses had to be ordered, so I went to the register and paid for the exam, and the clerk handed me my RX. I looked at it in disbelief: R –9.00, L –9.00. I felt tingly all over. It was still two hours until our parents were meeting us, so I asked if there was a Lenscrafters nearby, because I knew they could do any RX in one hour. Luckily, there was one 4 or 5 blocks away so I marched my siblings over there.
I signed the sign-in sheet and while I was waiting to be called I went over to the women’s frames and looked for a pair like I had been wearing, semi-rimless. I was inspecting a nice pair (but too big for my face) when I was called and the optician asked for my RX. He was a young African-American guy, very friendly, and his badge said “Tyrone, Frame Stylist.” Upon looking at my RX, he said, “Girl, that’s one awesome prescription you have.” I said I knew. When I told him I wanted semi-rimless, he said I should be careful because the lenses would be pretty thick, even in high-index. “Oh, I’m not worried,” I said. “The ones I’m wearing are spares, my bratty brother and sister just broke my current ones, which are semi-rimless, with a pretty similar prescription in them.” “You’re the boss,” he said. He found a pair in the right size and took some measurements. “Let me see if I have the right blanks in stock,” he said, and went into the back room, emerging a minute later with two large, round lenses that seemed about an inch thick. “Yikes,” I said, “I wanted high-index.” “Don’t worry,” he said, “they’re high-index, but they’re oversized. When they cut down the edge to fit the frames, they’ll be much thinner.” I picked one of the lenses up and held it. The front surface was totally flat, while the reverse seemed about as concave as a tablespoon. I was so incredibly excited!
But the excitement only lasted a minute. He walked with me to the register and said I had to pay for them up front, but I didn’t have enough money. Between the 3 of us, we had just over $50, and I begged him to take the $50 as a deposit. He had to discuss this with the manager, and she agreed, but said I couldn’t pick up the glasses until the rest of the money was paid. We went back to the hotel, changed back into swimsuits and went back to the pool. I needed to swim to reduce my stress level from the morning’s events. At 1:00 sharp (they’re very punctual), mom and dad showed up. If my brother and sister hadn’t piped up, they wouldn’t even have noticed that I was wearing my old glasses. We finished packing up and drove back to Lenscrafters. Mom and I went in to get my glasses. They were in a cellophane wrapper in Tray No. 86, and as the optician was taking them out and getting them ready, even though I only had 20/100 vision, I could see the big reflections and I knew it was going to be very exciting putting them on. Finally, she put them on my face, then on and off two or three times as she made adjustments. “How does that feel,” she asked? “Fine,” I said – and it was true. The frames felt fine. What I didn’t say was that I couldn’t see so fine, everything looked so small and moved from side to side when I turned my head. I couldn’t wait to get out of there.
“Would you like to drive?” dad asked. “No, not yet,” I said. “I have to get used to my new glasses.” “You are beautiful,” he said. “They look just like your old ones that I loved so much. I’m glad you got the same frames.” I don’t think that anyone in the family noticed how much stronger the lenses were. I got in the backseat, took my old glasses out of the case and put them on so I could inspect the new ones. Compared to the old ones, the lenses were twice as thick (I shouldn’t have been surprised, since the RX was twice as strong, -9 and –9 versus –5 and –4.50). There were a lot more power rings, and the two reflections on the inner surface, although they moved in opposite directions, were almost equal in size, both fairly small, unlike my previous lenses, which had one small and one large reflection. Then I put my old glasses back in the their case and took a mirror out of my purse. Even though I couldn’t see myself all that clearly, I could tell that the cut-in was way more than before. I knew I loved the look. I couldn’t wait until my eyes adjusted to my new lenses and I could see 20/20 through them.
(This is a totally fictional story. Thanks to Bobby for the inspiration. We are leaving for Minnesota on August 9th.)