The other day when I checked my e mail, I was pleased to find a message from my friend, Lenslover. I read the message, and pondered the request in my mind, wondering how I could go about helping him out. The request was simple enough. He wanted any pictures I had, or could get, of girls wearing strong glasses. He didn't care if they were high plus, or high minus glasses, old 50's or 60's glasses or new style glasses, as long as it was a pretty face wearing strong glasses. A strange request you might think, but for me it was nothing out of the normal, as Lenslover has an Internet site devoted to lovers of glasses. He didn't specifically say it, but I suspected that he was putting out a calendar, and wanted the pictures for it.
This posed a major problem for me. I have no trouble writing about girls wearing glasses, but I have never had any pictures of any. I have a fair number of ladies glasses in my collection in high prescriptions - more minus than plus, but enough to provide at least a dozen ladies with suitable eyewear. Now all I had to do was to come up with the ladies that would pose wearing glasses, and look natural doing so. He didn't want pinup types - just head on shots of ladies with glasses.
I have been checking out girls with glasses for a number of years, but in the last few years I have noticed a disturbing trend. There seem to be a lot more glasses wearers out there, but the ones with high prescriptions are viewing the world through contact lenses. And while I try to strike up a conversation with any that I see wearing strong prescriptions, I don't ever get down to details like name and address, so for me to help out with his quest, it was going to have be with glasses from my collection, on posed models. But, while I would love to have some of my collection photographed on actual people, I just didn't feel like wasting my money to hire models.
Then like a flash it came to me. In my nearest city were a large section of runaway kids/street people. I figured that for the price of a hotel room to get them a cleanup bath or shower, a few dollars worth of clothing from a thrift shop, along with a small cash donation, I could probably get 3 or 4 different girls to pose for a total cost of under $600.00. I had this much stashed, as I was about ready to get myself a new pair of glasses, but this was a far worthier cause.
The next day I packed up about 20 different pairs of glasses, and headed into the city. It wasn't hard to spot the girls, but every time I tried to approach some of them they would just move away. Finally, a little waif of a girl let me approach, and talk to her. I explained what I wanted, and she agreed to, for a fee, locate a few girls that would do what I wanted. I was sorry that I hadn't brought any from my children's collection, as this young lady would have easily looked the part of a 12 or 13 year old, but I wasn't sure that pictures of kids were what was wanted out of me. Soon she reappeared with six of her friends. There were a couple that weren't quite suitable to me, but I explained to them all what I wanted. I had thought about a hundred a girl would be right, but I dropped it to fifty, as I was going to have to pay my waif a finders fee, and I still had to rent a room, and buy them some clothing. I headed off to a nearby thrift shop, and explained that they each had twenty dollars to buy what they wanted, as long as it was presentable clothing. Then it was back to the room, and cleanup time. They all cleaned up well, and when they were dressed in their new clothing, I would have had a hard time seeing them as anything other than friends of my own kids. One girl was a bit older - probably in her mid twenties, and actually more along the age group that I was looking for. The picture taking went well, and just as they were leaving one of the girls picked up a pair of glasses and said to the others." Gee these look just like the ones Shelly wore before they got totally smashed."
My ears caught this, and I was intrigued. Soon the story came out. One of their other friends wore very strong thick glasses, but they had not survived the passage of time, and she was currently living on the street without any glasses to wear. I cursed my luck in not having had her with the group, but I asked the girls where we could find her. My friendly waif, who by then had asked me to call her Nikki, agreed to take me to where Shelly was begging, so off we went. On the main street of this city in the heart of downtown is a large shopping concourse. As we approached Nikki pointed to a girl in tattered clothing holding a cardboard sign, and a cup. As I got closer, I could see that the sign read. "Almost blind, please help." I looked at her eyes, and could see a vacant look in them. She must have pretty poor vision, as she had not even seen Nikki yet, and we were by now only a few feet away. I motioned for Nikki to stay back, and I went up to Shelly, and handed her a folded ten-dollar bill. She unfolded it, and held it to within an inch of the end of her nose before she could see the amount.
She thanked me very much, and with that I motioned for Nikki to come up. I had asked Nikki to tell her about the pictures that I wanted to take, and that a cleanup was in order. She agreed to come with me, as long as Nikki was along. Of course, I expected no less, but my little waif thought that this was a good time to hit me up for an increase in her salary, and another fifty bit the dust. I knew that Shelly would be unable to see well enough to pick out any clothing, so I suggested that we first stop at the hotel room, and see if any of the glasses I had with me would give her some vision. So we did, and sure enough, one pair, a well-worn pair of really thick myodiscs in a -23.5R and -21L was almost strong enough for her to wear. She was more excited over being able to see again than she was over getting cleaned up, and getting some clothing, but the tattered clothing she was wearing, and the smell of the street was more than I could stand, so off it was to the thrift store again. Then we went back to the hotel. Nikki had conned me out of more clothing again as well. She was beginning to be an expensive guide, but she had brought me more success than I could have had on my own, so I couldn't complain.
The cleanup and fresh clothing was done. The old clothing was added to the garbage bag that held the others old clothes, and Shelly was actually quite pretty.
I took pictures of her in every pair of glasses that I had brought with me, and I didn't want the picture session to end, as I knew I would have to make a decision. Knowing what she was going through trying to function in her street world, I didn't have the heart to send her out on the street without glasses, but the ones that she could see the best through were a particular favorite set of lenses. Yep, I just had a feeling - this was going to cost me.
After the pictures were done, I brought up the subject first. I told Shelly that the glasses that gave her the best vision were extremely fragile, and that I would love to let her have them, but where the temple was hinged was broken, and it wouldn't last a week, no matter how careful she tried to be. So, I suggested that we visit a nearby optical outlet, and see if we could have the lenses put into a new frame. The closest outlet was a fairly large chain that did a pretty good job of competing with the conglomerates. Heck, they were well known for poor quality even before the big ones came along.
Off we went, and when we got to the store, I was pleased to see that they were not busy. There was the requisite optometrist right next to the store, so we went there first. The receptionist said the doctor would be free momentarily, so we signed up for an exam for Shelly, and when the doctor came out she took one look at my special old glasses that Shelly had on, and told us that she really couldn't do a proper examination on a prescription that strong, and that Shelly should go to see an ophthalmologist. I explained that that was not an option, and that I knew that she was quite capable of doing a proper examination, so she relented, and said she would do her best. When they came back from the exam, I glanced at Shelly's prescription. It was little wonder that she was having a hard time without glasses, as she was -25.50D in her right eye, and -24.75D in her left. She also had another - 1.50 D of astigmatism in each eye, making for a very nearsighted young lady.
Then we were off to next door to see the optician. I knew what I wanted. I wanted to put my old lenses in a new frame, and to then order new lenses for the frame. This would let me off the hook with the least amount of money invested. But, I didn't really think this was a good route to take, as the lens size of the old glasses were, in today's world, quite oversize. I tried telling myself that she was only a street person, and that all it mattered was that she could see, but I have such a soft spot in my heart for people with strong prescriptions that I knew I would end up doing what she wanted. And, when the optician said that they could size the lenses down into a smaller frame, I had to put a stop to that. You see, if they had done that, I would have three frames that these lenses fit that would no longer have a thick pair of lenses to interchange. So, I told them that the glasses were my aunt's spare pair, and she would kill me if we did that.
I showed the optician where the temple hinge was cracked, and ready to break, and explained that we really needed a temporary, inexpensive frame to hold the lenses until a new pair could be made for Shelly. I popped the lenses carefully out of the old frame, and we left Shelly sitting at the optician's table while we searched for a frame. Finally we found a frame that would hold the lenses. I was pleased with the way they looked on Shelly, and I could have gone for new lenses in that frame, but the optician kept chattering on about how much better she would look in a smaller frame with hi index lenses, and polished edges. I usually defer to the optician's knowledge, as most of the time I have a prescription that I don't want challenged, but this time I could draw on my expertise. So, I told the optician that we wanted a small oval frame, either metal, or plastic, and a myodisc lens with a flat front base, and either a flat rear, or a slightly negative rear base. The area of vision should be 30mm or less, the lenses must be regular plastic, with an anti reflective coating, and no edge polishing, and if possible cut the center thickness to about 1 or 1.2mm. As I had expected, my instructions drew a stunned look from the optician. So, I explained that CR39, or regular plastic had the best abbe value, which meant crisper vision. I said that a 30mm field of vision would be about as large an area that she could see through without excessive distortion, and that this way there was no reason to make the lenses biconcave, with the resulting distortion that this causes. And, I explained that the flat rear base was needed with the front antireflective coating, because a positive base throws reflections from the side into the front of the lens. After she had digested all of that, I was prepared for an argument, but all she said was that the lenses would be pretty thick. I told her that they would be between 5/8" and 3/4" thick, and this is really the best way to go. She agreed, but not wanting to let it ride without any input, she asked me what I thought about blending the myodisc into the carrier part. I told her that that works on a larger circle, but we had already cut the visual field down as much as we could and still give her suitable vision.
So, soon we had a frame selection we could try on Shelly. She looked the nicest in a medium sized frame that was gold with a bit of brown tortishell around the lenses. They had a temple hinge that was set back far enough that they would close with the expected thickness of the lenses. Because of the strong power, the lenses were expected to take a week to ten days, so I left a deposit, and we went on our separate ways. I wanted to make sure that I got my old lenses back, so I arranged for Nikki to check with the store after a week and a half, and when the glasses were ready, I was to get a collect call from her at my cell phone number.
I had the pictures developed, and they all came out better than I had expected. I thought the girls looked a bit young in person, but this wasn't transmitted through to the pictures. And, after two weeks went by, I finally got the call from Nikki that Shelly's glasses were ready. I arranged to meet them in front of the optical shop the next morning, and when I got there, I was pleased to see that not only were the girls waiting for me, but that they were still looking presentable. The new glasses looked great - they came out around ½' thick, and the circle of the myodisc was noticeable, but they looked just fine to me. And Shelly was thrilled to be able to see again. I took a few more outdoor pictures of Shelly in her new glasses, and left the two girls to go their own way.
A few weeks later, I returned to the downtown district, and as I approached the shopping concourse I noticed a familiar young lady with a cardboard sign around her neck. As I got closer I saw that the sign read, "Almost blind - please help" Oh well, if it worked for her, who am I to judge.