It was such a fantastic weekend I was almost sorry to be in my pickup truck heading towards home. I was returning from the wedding of my sister’s youngest daughter, and my brother in law had spared no expense. Surrounded by friends, and family, in a picturesque setting on the Monterey Peninsula, the wedding had been one that most brides could only dream of. I had been a bit taken aback when I found out what my accommodations were going to cost for the 3 nights I had stayed, but in the end it had all been worth it
Since my trip had taken me far from my normal haunts, I had taken the opportunity of the drive there, as well as for the return trip to wear my favorite pair of high minus glasses – over the appropriate high plus contacts of course. These days my chances to indulge in my little hobby were very infrequent. But, out here on the highways of America, buying gas and other items in random convenience stores, I was able to parade in front of people who I would never see again, posing as a man with very high myopia. I had required some clothing for the wedding, so I found a mall and was able to wander the mall, glancing at the passers by to see if any of them indicated any response to my appearance with my strong glasses on. And I had visited a couple of optical stores looking for clip on sunglasses. I had even had a couple of good conversations with knowledgeable opticians.
On my trip home I had come across Ca. 58 from Mohave and in Barstow, Ca., I took northbound I –15 to where I – 40 split off. I was heading east on 40, my cruise set at a steady 70 mph, and I was sort of watching the highway, as traffic on a Sunday afternoon was relatively light. I had spent much of my life as a long haul truck driver, and even though I had left this profession a few years back, I still found my eyes wandering to check out the trucks in the westbound lanes, as if by some chance I might spot the truck of an old friend.
The last thing I remember was noticing the trailer on the other side was missing a set of wheels. My pickup must have found the missing duals, as the bouncing tires completely crushed the cab roof down on top of me.
I found out later that my truck was completely destroyed, and that the medical team, and the emergency response team had used the Jaws of Life to open up the cab to remove my unconscious and crushed body. I was medivaced to the nearest hospital with a trauma ward, which was Las Vegas, and the doctors worked for hours to save my life.
I was in a coma for a period of about 6 months. I don’t know if my body had shut down to give it the chance to repair the severe injuries I had suffered, but that is sort of what my nurses thought after I regained consciousness. When I did regain consciousness, my head was still swathed in bandages, and the bandages covered my eyes so it was another week or so until my bandages were removed.
I remember the day the bandages came off like it was yesterday. My eyes winced with the brightness of the natural sunlight, and once I got used to the light, my eyes attempted to focus. But there was nothing but a massive blur. Colors, and shapes were vague and impossible to see. The nurse asked me what I could see, and of course I told her that everything was a total blur.
Soon the nurses had managed to find a doctor, and he came into my room.
“Hi, I’m Doctor Burton. My nurses tell me that you can’t see anything but a massive blur.” Dr. Burton said to me.
“That’s right Doctor. It is like I am severely nearsighted.” I replied.
“That is not possible. You were wearing contact lenses when you were brought in, and I merely implanted lenses with the same prescription in your eyes. So, you should have good vision without glasses. Actually, I might as well tell you the truth. We were in such a rush to get you stabilized, and bandaged up that no one even checked your eyes for contact lenses for almost a week, and when we did unbandage you, your eyes were ulcerated around the lenses. We had to soak the lenses to remove them, and I checked the power of each lens, and implanted the same power lenses in each eye. You would not have been able to wear contact lenses again for quite a while.” Doctor Burton told me.
“Oh Doctor, this has been a wonderful mistake.” I replied.
“What do you mean?” Doctor Burton asked.
“Have you ever heard of people who wear strong plus contact lenses under high minus glasses to give others the impression that they are very nearsighted?” I asked.
“No, not really. I am sure it would be possible, but I can think of no logical reason why any sane person would do this.” Doctor Burton replied.
“Well, there is no logical reason. However, there are a large group of us – mostly men, but also a few women who do this. Right now, with the lenses that you have implanted in my eyes, I will probably require glasses with a prescription of around OD –25.50 x +1.00 x 15, and OS – 24.50 x +0.75 x 165.” I replied.
Well, I will just remove the lenses tomorrow then.” Doctor Burton said.
“Not without my consent, and only over my dead body. If you try to do that I will sue you. However, if you leave them there, and go along with my story that my eyes were damaged in the accident, I will be eternally grateful.” I told him.
“You are one strange person. You have over 25D of myopia, and you want to leave it this way. I find this hard to understand. However, since the damage is already done, I suppose I will go along with your wishes.” Doctor Burton said.
With that the doctor sent for his trial lens kit, and he set up a trial frame with the lens powers that I had suggested. He tried them on me, and found that my predictions were close enough to have a pair of glasses made up for me.
It took almost a week, but finally I had a pair of glasses that I could see through. I was happy, probably happier than I had ever been in my life. I was recovering rapidly by working with a physiotherapist every day. Soon I was able to walk down the corridor of the hospital without assistance. Most of my injuries had completely healed, and I was almost ready to be discharged. For the past week the nurses had been refusing to admit a visitor, but after one nurse told me about the man who had been trying to get in to see me, I advised them not to turn him away the next time he dropped by.
The nurses ushered a man dressed in a business suit into my room. The instant that I saw him I smelled lawyer, and I was correct. He was the lawyer for the trucking company that had caused my hospital stay. I wondered if I should have my own lawyer present, but decided to keep my mouth shut, and see what he had to offer.
We chatted pleasantly for a while. He asked some seemingly innocuous questions, and I gave answers that were factual. He asked me about my past employment history, and I told him of having driven long haul for number of years. Then I told him about this great job I had been working at over the past couple of years doing local deliveries for a lumber company. I knew that he was getting around to something, but what he said surprised me.
“So, have you thought of any form of employment that you could do now that you are handicapped?” he asked.
“Handicapped?” I questioned.
“Well, yes, your eyesight seems to be pretty poor. With glasses like that I doubt that you would be able to retain your CDL. I know you wore glasses before, but according to our records they were not very strong, and you had no trouble passing the vision test.” He said.
I hadn’t thought of myself as handicapped. I was pretty used to wearing glasses with this prescription, and I felt that I saw quite well with them. I knew that once I left the hospital, a proper eye examination would likely allow me to get glasses that gave me even better vision. But, I realized instantly that if the company thought I was handicapped and unemployable I would have a better chance at a reasonable settlement.
“Well, I suppose I must take the vision test for my drivers license and see if I am able to pass. However, I am so banged up that I doubt that I would be able to do my old job anyway.” I said, my mind going a mile a minute.
“Well, we would like to make you an offer for a settlement. I am sure that we can come to some agreement without involving a bunch of lawyers that will put more money into your pockets.” He stated.
“Put your offer on the table, and lets see how fair you think you are.” I replied.
He let me read the offer. It was fair. The company was going to pay my medical expenses, including the cost of a new pair of glasses with the proper prescription. They were going to replace my pickup truck with one of comparable value, or they would let me take the money instead. And, they were going to give me $250,000.00 for my pain and suffering. I felt that I was going to be fully recovered, so I felt I was going to do all right. However, I maintained my silence after I read the offer.
It was going to be a standoff. He didn’t say a word either. After a few more minutes I spoke. “This was a preventable accident. If your company had a good training program in effect this would never have happened. If I took this offer, it would be letting you off the hook pretty cheaply.”
“Why do you say this was preventable? Our mechanics tell us that it was an act of God, not human error.” The lawyer said.
‘No, this wasn’t an act of God. This was pure and simply a lack of driver training on your company part. I could have prevented this if I were a driver, or if I were training your driver’s.” I replied.
“How could you have prevented this?” He asked
“That’s my secret. I have 3 more years before I am 66, and can draw Social Security. I would like a job with your company so that I can instruct your drivers, and if I do my job well, this will never happen again. I will take the offer you have put on the table if your company gives me a job at $50,000.00 a year for the next 3 years. I will train drivers, and I will, if I can retain my license, do the pick ups on abandoned units.” I replied.
“Let me take this to the owner,” said the lawyer.
I was not surprised when I heard back from the company that my counter offer was accepted. After all, the only thing I had asked for over and above what they offered was a job, and I was prepared to give value for my work. After being discharged from the hospital I was soon feeling better, and within a month I reported for my new job. I had my eyes tested, and I got new glasses, slightly stronger than I thought I would need, but I was quite pleased with my vision. They were hi index plastic myodiscs, with a plano front and a plano rear carrier. I had chosen a 25mm bowl, and I thought that they looked really good on me. I passed the state vision exam, and was able to retain my commercial driver’s license, so I was very pleased.
After being on the job for a bit over a month I was pleased to see that my training was going well. Drivers were actually stopping by my office, and discussing little tricks to keep their trucks on the road. I had been surprised to find out how many drivers did not know enough to look at the inside of all the tires when they walked around the truck. So, I explained to them that traces of oil on the tires meant that there was oil leaking from a wheel seal, and this should be reported and fixed immediately. And I trained all our drivers to walk around the truck and place a fingertip on each wheel hub at the end of a trip. A wheel hub that was too hot to touch was a problem about to happen.
I was into my second month when I met Carl and Val. And within a very short period of time Carl had become one of my best friends. He was a down to earth type guy. He could probably have rebuilt a truck sitting on the side of the road, he was that mechanically inclined. And although Carl and Val drove as a team, I knew that they ran more like a super single. I was pretty sure that Carl did all the driving, even though Val did have her license. Val wore glasses that were at least as strong, if not stronger than I wore. And, although Val was not a girl that would be considered beautiful, she was very nice looking, and had a good figure.
Whenever Carl and Val were in town we spent a lot of time together. I was very careful not to show my attraction to Val, as I knew that this would destroy our friendship. Val was deeply in love with Carl, and Carl loved Val more than anything else in the world.
Carl was going to retire at 60. Val was 3 years younger than Carl, and she was also ready to get off the road. During the year prior to Carl’s 60th birthday, they had sold their house, upon my suggestion that they stay with me when they were in town. This arrangement worked for them, but for me it was painful to see Val as much as I did.
I loved the way she wore her glasses. She never removed them except to clean them, or to thread a needle when she was sewing. And when I watched her take off her glasses, and bring the needle and thread right up to the end of her nose, I was aroused. And, I could tell that Val had very good vision with her glasses. She hardly ever squinted at anything. I probably squinted more than she did.
Of course we had tried each other’s glasses on. I thought that hers were stronger than mine, but they were slightly weaker. She didn’t really know her prescription, and I didn’t want to show too much interest. She did tell me that her eyes had gotten worse and worse until she was around 30, and then they had stayed almost the same for the last 27 years.
Carl had purchased a 5th wheel trailer, and I had pulled it home for him with my pickup. He bought it right, and although it needed a lot of refurbishing they were going to have a really nice camper when he finished with it. He had been looking at a number of pick up trucks, but hadn’t bought one yet.
One Monday night I got a call from Val. She was sobbing, and between sobs I managed to determine that Carl had been taken to a hospital with a heart attack. Since I was the pick up man for the company, I knew I would have to retrieve the truck, so I bought a plane ticket so that I could be with Carl and Val.
When I got there, I realized that Carl was in worse shape that I had thought. He was in intensive care, and Val told me that they didn’t think he was going to pull through. He did last the night, and the next day I went in with Val to see him. It hurt me to see Carl lying there, so fragile and weak, and I was even more choked up when Carl asked me to look after Val for him.
I had to get the truck and load moving so I headed out to meet with a truck coming from the east. I met them, and switched for their trailer, which was going back west. I drove much of that night, with tears coming from my eyes, thinking that Carl might not make it. The next morning I arrived at the terminal, and I was met with a bunch of long faces. Carl had passed on during the night.
I had not slept, but I immediately booked a plane ticket, went home to shower and grab clean clothing, and flew back to be with Val. Together we brought Carl’s remains back. Carl had been with the company for over 20 years, a rare occurrence for a driver. His funeral was extremely well attended.
That night, after Val and I had returned to my house we sat and talked, mostly about the life that she and Carl had lead, but she was also wondering what she should do with the rest of her life.
“I am retiring in a few weeks Val. I like your company, and you are more than welcome to stay with me. Actually one of the last things that Carl asked me was to look after you.” I told her.
“I heard him, and I am grateful that you told him that you would take care of me. But, I don’t want to be a burden on you.” Val said.
“Val, you will not be a burden on me. Actually, if I had met you without Carl being in the picture I think I would have fallen in love with you myself.” I replied.
“Well, I am not ready to replace Carl, but if it is all right with you I will stay here for a while.” Val said.
So, Val stayed on. I retired, and together we worked to rebuild the 5th wheel camper that Carl had bought. We talked about going places together after the camper was finished, but Val wasn’t as enthusiastic as I hoped she would be about traveling with me. I just put this down to the grieving process, so I made sure that I didn’t push to hard
Finally the camper was finished. I was about to suggest a trip for our maiden voyage, but that morning when Val came out of her room I was too shocked to say anything. She had her suitcase all packed, and she wheeled it out behind her.
“I’m going to stay with my sister for a while. It is just too painful living here with Carl’s ghost everywhere I look.” Val said to me.
“Does this mean that you won’t even give me a chance?” I asked.
“All the time we were working on the camper I saw Carl’s dreams. And, I feel that you are only being good to me because Carl asked you to look after me. I don’t want to stay with you because you have taken pity on me.” Val said.
“Val, you haven’t even given me a chance. I have backed off out of respect for your love for Carl. And, if the camper bothers you, I am more than willing to trade it in on one you pick out yourself.” I replied.
“You would do that?” Val asked.
“Just say the word, and I will. I don’t want you to leave.” I said.
‘I have to. I can’t bring myself to develop any feelings for you, because Carl is too close to both of us here. I have to get away from here, and sort out my feelings.” Val said.
“I love you. I will follow you.” I said.
“Give me 2 weeks on my own. I will visit with my sister, and her kids, and her 2 grandchildren, and if you come to pick me up in 2 weeks, I will either come back here to live with you, or I will return for the rest of my belongings.” Val said.
Those were the longest 2 weeks I have ever spent. As soon as they were over I rushed over to Sacramento, and picked Val back up. All the way home I told her how much I had missed her, and how I just couldn’t let her go again.
That night as we sat on the couch watching the television together I put my arm around her and held her tight. I could feel the tension in her body, but as we sat together for a while I could feel her softening up. When the show was over, and it was time for bed, I made a suggestion.
“I would love it if you shared my bed Val.” I said.
“It might be too soon. But, I will share your bed tonight, and we can see.” Val said.
Val came into the bedroom, dressed only in a light negligee. She got into bed, and I climbed in beside her. The lights were still on, and I reached over and pulled her towards me. I gazed through the thick lenses of my glasses into the thick lenses of her glasses, and saw her lovely eyes so minified behind the strong lens. I drew her close to me, and I kissed her gently on the lips. I couldn’t stop kissing her, and we held each other so tightly. Finally I sensed that she was reluctant to go any further, so I reached for her glasses, and removed them. I folded them, and placed them carefully on her bedside table, and I glanced at her face without her glasses. She was pretty, both with, and without glasses, and I told her so. Then I removed and folded my own glasses before putting out the light.
Val never did leave again.