Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Eyes Have It

This is another recycled piece I wrote several years ago. I wear glasses (which give me a very distinguished appearance, by the way) and this story is based on an experience I had at one of my routine eye exams.

I walked into the office, my nerves a bit less than relaxed, and inquired at the desk. I was informed that the doctor was expected in soon and that I might pass the time by positioning myself in one of the rickety abominations which held a job by operating under the pretense of being a chair. Warily depositing myself into one of these, I surveyed my surroundings. There were three other chairs present in the vicinity, all with the same evil appearance as the one to which I was foolishly entrusting myself. There was an old tin coffeepot, the edges of the spout crusty with ancient grounds; a small rolling table, on which sat an aged television set with antennas which had seen better days; and a dismal stack of wretched magazines, their lurid covers depicting imaginative poses and questionable news items.

At the bottom of the stack of magazines, I discovered a battered issue of Outdoor Life, but soon discovered that years of avid readers had reduced it to a madhouse of coffee stains, rips, and missing pages. I sighed and replaced it back onto the stack, effectively concealing a blaring headline that was cheerfully announcing the end of the world.

I heard footsteps in the hall and I pushed upright in my chair. It groaned ominously. A tall woman in a white coat came around the corner and smiled. The smile was synthetic and I had the feeling that she was doing it merely from habit, probably unaware that she was smiling at all.

She beckoned to me and said in a bored tone, "We'll start in here and I will pull out your record and then we will go into this other room and begin the examination."

I sighed inwardly and glanced into the other room. Above the door, large letters read, Pre-Testing. Inside was a jumble of equipment which seemed to cackle at the prospect of a new victim. We entered the first room and I took in the furnishings while the doctor read my file. There were a lot of hmmmm's and uh-huh's and I took this to be a sign of approval. The smile was still habitual. Finally, she led me to the gloom of the Pre-Testing room and I was seated in a padded chair beside a rotating table.

The doctor moved the table around until I was facing a sleek piece of equipment with a small hole in one side. I was instructed to place my chin on the pad and my forehead on the cross bar. The doctor then proceeded to explain in painful detail everything she was doing.

"The soft, even sounds you hear are coming from my lungs," she informed me. "Breathing is a healthy, mentally stabilizing exercise. I highly recommend it."

I was quick to respond. "Well, I've always found breathing quite healthy myself. All the people I know who quit, have died."

She was not amused. "Now," she said, and I saw that it was going to be the same thing as usual. "Do you see the star-burst pattern?"


"Look right in the center and the machine will take a reading." A clicking sound ensued and then a sound as if a gangster were firing a machine gun. "We will take more than one reading in each eye," she said, repeating the exact words she had said two years ago during my last eye exam.

After the "star-burst" test, she again rotated the table, explaining that since she was going to use another machine, it was necessary to move the other out of the way. I agreed with her logic.

"Do you see the green dot?"


"Open your eyes real wide and a fan will blow some air into your eyes to check the pressure in your eye. We will take a couple readings in each eye because when you jump it might take a different reading." Again the same recital. I began to suspect that she was reading from a script. It was word for word! "You may want to hold onto the side bars to keep from jerking too much," she said. This announcement was met with stony silence on my part.

As it turned out, it was not as bad as expected. Only one eye was rendered useless and my hair appeared a mere three shades lighter.

The doctor looked at me and said the first sincere words I had heard escape her lips. "Say, that white hair is very becoming."

I rewarded this remark with a thin, indulging smile.

After this torture, we headed into the next room where I was seated in an identical padded chair and instructed to hold a black instrument over my left eye.

"Tell me when you can read the smallest line," she recited, motioning to the far wall, upon which lines of random figures and characters flitted across a mirror.

"Now," she said, once I had completed the test. "This time you don't have to read anything out loud, but tell me when you can read the smallest line." Again letters appeared on the mirror.

"Now!" The characters screeched to a halt.

The doctor reached over and picked up a small metal cylinder with a spout on one end. "Now I will check the response of each eye to a bright light. Open your eyes real wide and focus on a spot on the ceiling."

She proceeded to shine a piercing light into my eyes. I considered this highly unnecessary and when it was all over, felt like a drunken moth. Next she measured the distance between my pupils, wrote something on pad- which I was unable to decipher-and then placed before me a huge metal and plastic instrument with so many levers and buttons that I almost tried to lower my flaps and contact air traffic control. It was a good thing I restrained myself, because the doctor was madly flipping lenses before my eyes.

"Better with 3 or 4? 5 or 6? 7, 8, 9, 10, 11..."

I sputtered in confusion, unable to cope with the sudden influx of queries. At last it was over and I stumbling blindly from the room, unable to believe that it was indeed completed.

Exiting the office without being apprehended, I made a bee-line for my car, laughing maniacally at my brilliant escape. The other patrons, convinced I was a complete imbecile, made long and circuitous routes about me, but I did not care. I was blind to their cruel gestures, aloof, above petty annoyances. I was free! I had gone through the most rigorous test of endurance known to man and lived to tell the story. And now, you know it as well. Use it wisely and avoid eye exams at all costs.

1 comment:

Jack W. Regan said...

And we do, wife.