You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but in the 5 years since I graduated from university with an honors business degree I have managed to make a name for myself as a turnaround specialist for troubled companies. I am getting a little tired of the reaction I get when I show up for a board meeting of one of these firms that want to hire my services, and I can tell from the reactions and the looks from the board members that they are thinking that there is no way this baby faced kid is the guy they so badly need to help them in their time of trouble. I have tried everything I know to alter my appearance to give myself a more mature appearance. I have shown up wearing a number of different frame styles for the glasses that I don’t require. I have grown 3 different styles of beards and moustaches, but nothing really helps. Finally I decided that I wasn’t going to worry about my appearance any longer. In the past 5 years my track record of success spoke for itself, and if my appearance didn’t satisfy the board members I felt that I could just turn around and walk out the door. I was only 30 years old, and I had enough work in front of me to keep me busy for at least another year.
And, I had also made some very astute business decisions. Instead of a fixed fee, I often took stock options, and other forms of equity investments in the companies I had helped. So, it definitely was in my best interests to do a good job, because it paid off quite well for me in the long run. Normally, I wouldn’t even look at a company unless it was a sizeable corporation, so when my favorite professor from university called me to ask me as a favor to him to take a look at a small family run corporation that was heavily invested in the textile and furniture industry, my gut reaction was to turn down his request. However, this guy had helped me out when I was a failing first year student, and had spent a lot of his own time on me. So it was pretty easy for him to give me a guilt trip ride. And, of course, in the end I said yes, as I am sure he knew I would.
So, that is how I ended up driving south towards the Carolina’s. I was a little resentful that I had allowed myself to be conned into this trip. And I was also upset that the money I would have earned over the next 6 months bailing out a large multinational firm was going to be lost to me. From what I had gleaned from all the information I had been gathering I figured that 6 months would be the death knell for this company. But there were lots more waiting in the wings. I started to look at the bright side. This little trip would be more like a vacation for me. And I certainly needed one. I had not had a break since I graduated.
Finally I arrived in town. I scouted out the motel I had been booked into, and it was no Hilton. But it appeared to be clean, and comfortable. After I checked in, I changed to jeans, a T-shirt, and a denim jacket. Placing a baseball cap on my head completed the ensemble, and I headed out in my Beamer to tour the town. It was a lovely fall day, and with the top down I began to feel that I actually was on vacation. I found the main factory and headed for the next town to find the second of 6 factories that Mike Le Gende had acquired after his grandfather had left him the main plant. By nightfall I had visited all 7 locations. Big Mike had been a classmate of my professor, and they had played football together. When Big Mike had passed away a couple of years ago from a massive heart attack, control of the company had passed on to his daughter Catherine. And, so far from what I heard Catherine was making a mess of the whole situation. I returned to my motel, and prepared myself mentally for the meeting with the Legend Furniture and Textiles shareholders the following day.
The following morning I dressed conservatively, in a dark business suit, and headed for the main plant. I suspected that word of my arrival in town had preceded me, and from the reactions of the receptionist, and the security guard I knew it had. But I was greeted cordially, and shown to the boardroom, a fancy name for a plain old meeting room. I was expecting 12 members, including Catherine, and they were already there, waiting for me.
Catherine was a very pretty dark haired young lady. I guestimated her age to be mid to late 20’s, and looking at her gave me a couple of sexual fantasies. The other board members were middle aged, and were a mixture of men and women. I later found out that most of them were family members – Aunt’s and Uncles of Catherine, and they were there more as advisors than anything else.
The company had a fairly good balance sheet. They were definitely making money. There were plenty of orders on the books, and on the whole I couldn’t see where I was going to be able to do much for the firm. Like almost every other small corporation, business was down slightly, and costs were higher than they had been the previous year. After the meeting I stayed behind to meet with Catherine.
After I finished my meeting my sexual fantasies were stronger than ever. I had asked her if she was married, and when she replied that she was not, I asked her to accompany me to dinner that evening. However, she declined my invitation, giving me no explanation for the refusal.
I stayed behind in the boardroom, looking closer at the books to see if I could discover the reason why I had been asked to look closely at this company. I did discover that a number of key employee’s had taken early retirements, or buyouts during the past year. This had contributed to the decline in profits. After I finished I went for a walk around the plant.
I soon discovered that Catherine had a reputation as a real bitch. Apparently she was next to impossible to work for. And, I got a chance to see her dressing down an employee. From what I could gather, the employee didn’t deserve the intensity of her reprimand. I spoke to a few employees and the consensus was that in the morning Catherine was as nice as she could be. However by noon she became a total jerk. It was almost as if she suffered from a Jekyll and Hyde type of personality. From the sounds of it, most of the people in the plant were almost ready to find another job.
The following day found me visiting another plant. For the rest of the week I visited the other plants. By Friday I had discovered that moral among the employees was very bad. There was absolutely no loyalty there. And, it appeared that the reason for the lousy moral was a direct result of Catherine, and her treatment of people.
Everywhere I visited I got the same story. “She was such a sweet little girl while Mike was alive.” I heard this line about 50 times. Finally I started to ask when she had changed, and the general opinion was that it had been about 6 months ago. “She is her old self in the morning, but in the afternoon she would rather bite your head off.” I was told.
I was in a quandary. Obviously there was a problem with Catherine. But how do you tell the boss that they are going to ruin the company unless they change their ways. On Monday, after an interesting weekend hiking the woods around the town, I came to the plant around lunchtime. I cornered Catherine’s secretary, and demanded a meeting with Catherine for 2 o clock. I surmised that Catherine would be in her afternoon mood by that time.
Promptly at 2 PM I appeared for the meeting. The secretary showed me into the office. I looked closely at Catherine, sitting in her chair behind the desk. Her eyes were red and bloodshot.
“Well, what have you discovered?” Catherine asked sharply.
“The main problem I can find seems to be with you. And, I suspect that your biggest problem is a pair of poorly fitting contact lenses.” I replied.
“How, How can you tell that?” Catherine stammered.
“All I have to do is look at you. Your eyes are all bloodshot. They weren’t like that when I first met you last Monday morning. And from talking with your employees, I have discovered that your personality changes around lunchtime. This would be about the time when your lenses start to really hurt.” I replied.
“Say that your guess is correct. What would you recommend?” Catherine asked.
“I suggest that you wear glasses until you can get a pair of properly fitted contact lenses. If your contact lenses hurt that much they are probably damaging your eyes.” I told her.
“I can’t wear glasses. My glasses are real coke bottles. I feel very self conscious wearing glasses.” Catherine told me.
“Catherine, my last job was to reorganize an optical company. This optical company had a large number of stores, and a couple of specialty labs. I don’t care what your prescription is, I can help you get a pair of glasses that will look good.” I replied.
What I didn’t tell Catherine was that during the 6 months I spent bailing out the optical company I had discovered that I was seriously attracted to ladies who wore strong glasses. I had spent more than a few extra hours learning about glasses, and prescriptions. I had even searched the records for ladies who wore strong prescription glasses, and I had obtained the names and addresses of a fair number of them. I had checked them all out. Some were too fat. Some were married, and some were worthy of a couple of dates. But so far none of them had become a prospect for marriage. I had been given a large number of shares in the company, and as a major stockholder I had access to more of the same information, but I had not returned for a new list of glasses wearing ladies yet. Maybe I might have found one by chance.
“Take your contact lenses out, and put on your glasses for me. Then I can see what we are up against.” I said.
“I don’t have my glasses with me. I never carry them around.” Catherine replied.
“Well, I will have to go home with you, and we will do this at your home.” I told her.
So, I followed Catherine to her home. She invited me in, and as I sat in the living room she went off to trade her contact lenses for her glasses. She returned, wearing a pair of very thick clunky round wire framed glasses. They looked like real coke bottles, just like she had said.
“Well, you were right. Your glasses do not do a thing for your good looks.” I said.
“Well thank you for the compliment.” Catherine replied sarcastically.
“Hey, if I had told you they looked good on you, you would have known that I was lying. I am not about to try to flatter you. I just want to fix the reason you are such a bitch in the afternoons. Do you know your prescription?” I asked.
“I have it right here. My right eye is –12.00 x –7.50 x 175 and my left is 12.00 x –7.50 x 165.” Catherine told me.
“Wow, that is a lot of astigmatism. You must be wearing RGP lenses. Gas permeable lenses are the only ones that will work with that much astigmatism.” I told her.
“I don’t know what they are. They are the same type as I had before, but my astigmatism increased by –2.00D this time.” Catherine replied.
“Are they hard plastic lenses?” I asked.
“Yes, they are.” Catherine replied.
“That means they are rigid gas permeable then. I am surprised they make them for that high a script of astigmatism. That is why they are hurting you so much. I doubt that you will ever get a comfortable fit in contact lenses.” I said.
“I don’t want to hear that. I can’t wear these glasses all the time. I look ugly.” Catherine replied.
“No, you don’t look ugly. Nothing can make you look ugly. However you do require a more attractive looking pair of glasses. Do you have a phone directory for the area?” I asked.
“Yes, I will get it. Why do you want one?” Catherine asked as she got out the yellow pages.
“I want to see if there is a Specsmasters in the area.” I told her.
“You don’t have to look it up. There is one over in New River Bottom.” Catherine said.
“I don’t know the area well. Is that far?” I asked.
“Oh, we can get there in about 45 minutes.” Catherine said.
“Well, lets go. We can get you a new pair of glasses ordered, and then have supper together.” I replied.
“Ok, I’ll put my contacts back in.” Catherine replied.
“No, you won’t ever put your contacts back in. You have to realize that you can no longer wear contact lenses.” I said.
Catherine looked at me. I could tell she was shocked. “You are asking me to go to supper with you while I am wearing my glasses?”
“Yes, what’s wrong with that?” I asked.
“I don’t ever go out wearing glasses.” Catherine said.
“You don’t ever go out wearing contact lenses either. I asked you out last Monday, and you declined. I bet it was because your contact lenses were hurting you so much.” I suggested.
Catherine hung her head with shame. “ You are right. But I am surprised you would go out with me while I am wearing glasses that look so terrible.”
“We are going to change that.” I said.
Catherine and I drove over to New River Bottom, and for a while she forgot she was wearing glasses. We chatted about a number of things, and I discovered that I really liked this girl.
We walked into the Specsmaster store in the mall. A friendly young lady asked if she could assist us, so we showed her Catherine’s prescription. The young assistant optician made her first mistake.
“Oh wow, that is a strong prescription.” Kelly, the optician told us.
“Kelly, I will speak to the manager now please.” I said in a demanding voice.
Kelly was a little taken aback, but she went off to get the manager. Soon she returned with a gentleman who had Brian on his nametag. Kelly was about to leave us with Brian.
“Stick around Kelly.” I demanded. I pulled out my wallet, and showed them my Specsmaster company identification card.
“Kelly, you have just committed a cardinal sin. When you commented on how strong a prescription my girlfriend had you broke one of the company rules. I will not report you to head office for this, but I wanted to bring your boss in on this discussion to ensure that you took this seriously. It is true that Catherine has a very strong prescription, however she is upset enough by how strong her prescription is that she does not want it thrown in her face.” I said.
Brian apologized for Kelly, and finally I had to tell him to let it go. I could live with Kelly’s error, but I just wanted to make sure she never repeated it. Brian wanted to bring over one of the other opticians in training, but I emphasized that we would rather work with Kelly now.
And Kelly was a good optician in training. She looked at the script again and she immediately suggested that we needed to look at frames with oval shaped lenses that had the lens center right in the middle. I knew that the reason for this was because the strong astigmatism that Catherine had made the lenses much thicker on the top and the bottom. Kelly was able to explain this to Catherine so that Catherine also understood. Finally we chose 2 frames. One frame was a rectangular frame, with a little wider lens opening than I thought we should have, but the frame, without lenses, looked fantastic on Catherine. The other frame was a black oval frame with a very small lens size. I knew these would be fabulous. Kelly was also correct in suggesting a very high index plastic lens for both pairs.
Because of my standing with the company, I got both pairs of glasses for Catherine at no charge. They were even going to ship them from the lab on Tuesday overnight, so we would have them Wednesday. I gave Kelly a nice tip for her assistance, and she told me that she would never make that mistake again.
Catherine and I had a wonderful time over supper, and we enjoyed the drive home. When I went to drop Catherine off, I got the feeling that she would be willing to invite me to stay over, but I didn’t want to push the issue. However I did ask her to go out dancing with me Saturday night, and she accepted.
“Can I wear my contacts if I don’t wear them all day?” Catherine asked.
“No, you can wear your glasses. You look just fine wearing glasses, and by the middle of next week you will look gorgeous wearing glasses.” I replied.
We had a lovely time Saturday night. Sunday we spent the whole day together, and by Sunday evening I had checked out of my motel room, and was sharing Catherine’s bed.
Wednesday we went back to Specsmasters to pick up both pairs of Catherine’s glasses. The oval shaped black plastic frames looked wonderful on her. Yes, they looked powerful, but they were really very thin, and attractive in appearance. Catherine loved them. The rectangular ones did have a little bit too large a lens size. They had been forced to shave the outer back edge of the lens at the outside edge, so there was a small circle at the outer edge of the frame. But these frames looked the nicest and the most stylish on Catherine’s face, so I suspected that she would soon get used to them, and they would become her primary glasses. At least I certainly hoped they would.
I never did leave town. I read in the trade papers that the company that I left floundering when I came to the Carolina’s did go under. But, I didn’t care. I was managing director of a thriving furniture and textile business, and I was quite happy to go home every evening to my gorgeous wife, and my 2 daughters. Fortunately my wife accepted the fact that she would have to wear glasses for the rest of her life, and I am quite happy staring into her eyes through the strong lenses that she wears. And, our 2 daughters have just been prescribed their first pairs of glasses as well. Could life be any better?