A Sight for Sore Eyes

The room was candlelit dark—apart from the blinding light directed into one of my eyes. I felt cool fingers pull down on the skin just below my left eye. Oh, how I wanted to jerk back and say, “Hey! You just undid four months of anti-wrinkle cream treatments with that one careless move!” But I refrained.

“Look to the left. Look to the right. Look up. Look down.” These were the words I heard and then heard repeated as my optometrist shifted her focus to the right side of my face.

This was the last test in line for my annual, incredibly long, No End in Sight vision test. I really had to make a note to book half a day for this appointment next year.

So many exams, with large hunks of plastic where you–please put your chin in the tray and look through the lens. It didn’t matter how many antibacterial wipes the staff quickly swished over the equipment. This was flu and cold season. I was bound to walk out of here with something the CDC hadn’t quite been successful in developing a vaccine for.

Exam number one was a test where I peered through a porthole and watched a hot air balloon in the distance come in and out of focus, but the only thing that became clear to me was that I would really like to be on that guy.

Next was the ‘puff of air’ Glaucoma test, designed to measure the pressure in your eye. I wonder if it could also detect the pressure in my head, as I had a bucketload on my plate today and always felt that this particular test was just one most physicians threw in for fun as a Made you blink! game.

301114pressure (800x723)

The Visual Acuity test has me sweating before I even place one hand over one eye. Reading the eye chart letters seems somehow slightly judgmental when my doctor used to say, “Fantastic! High Five!” and now simply sighs and then clucks her tongue as she puts notes on my chart.


Cuz I would have.

The Ishihara Color Vision test is the only fun test given, and if a physician truly wants to go whole hog, she will show you up to 38 “plates” within the book that display pictures of colored dots surrounding a number that, to someone without color blindness, appear in multiple different colors.

301114dots (643x800)

It’s rather similar to the random dot autostereogram artwork—the Magic Eye paintings—that allow folks to see 3D images while gazing at 2D pictures. If it weren’t for the headache that followed, I could stare at those puzzles all day long.

The refraction test is always one I stumble through embarrassingly. That monster multi-lens device gets swung in front of your head and you’re asked to peer through the glass and read the line of Morse code on the very bottom of the eye chart while the doctor flips through a series of choices. “Do you like A or B … A or B?”

“Umm … could we do them again?”

“A or B? … A or BEEEE?”

“I’ll take A—No wait! B. B. B! Yes, I’ll take B. I think.”

It would be so much easier if she just let me do it myself. It might take me a while to go through the manual and figure out what flips what and how many ticks I rotate through, but it would be a helluva lot more accurate because a massive amount of pressure would be alleviated. I’m itching to say, “Just go see the guy in examining room three and give me about fifteen minutes. I’ll have this all sorted out by then. You’re welcome.”

The test for macular degeneration is one that’s not only challenging to take, but challenging to say. Sometimes I’ll just ask everyone wearing some sort of a uniform in the office about macular degeneration simply to see just how easily it rolls off their tongue. Bit of a twister.

301114macular (529x800)


But the test itself is one of quick response and reflexes. Cover one eye, put your chin on the petri dish, and stare at the black dot in the middle of the screen. You’ll see something that looks like graph paper there. It’s called an Amsler Grid—probably after some scientist who loved trigonometry.  They give you a handheld device with a button and tell you to stare only at the black dot, clicking the button any time you see something moving, flashing or flitting about on the grid. Well I find this hugely frustrating and nearly impossible as firstly, when someone says, “Don’t look at the pink woolly mammoth in the room,” everyone immediately starts searching for the pink woolly mammoth, and secondly, I’m constantly apologizing to the technician saying, “Whoops! Don’t count that press of the button. I’m pretty sure that was just a floater.”

301114mammoth (800x716)

I fail this test miserably and we all begin to suspect I am either on the irreversible road to blindness or a flea has gotten into the machine. It doesn’t matter. I’m getting used to personally letting down my physician.

The Pupil Dilation test is likely my least favorite, as it renders you nearly incapacitated.

301114dilation (633x800)


They plop the stingy drops into your eyes, the drops leak down the side of your face and stream into your ears, taking with them half the mascara you applied for the day, and then everyone leaves you to stare into space while the drops take effect. Within minutes you cannot read, and because of the leftover drops in both ears, you can’t even listen to music or podcasts because everyone sounds like they’re under water.

301114pot (724x800)

I sit. And wait. And pilfer the examining room drawers for samples. I now have enough sterile gloves to start selling back to the World Health Organization for a fraction of what they’re probably paying for them now, and be able to pay for both my kids’ college education within my first week of commerce.

We round out the exam with another paralyzing light directed through my eyeball and landing somewhere at the back of my skull. I am finished. For another year. And as always I am left with the parting gift of sage advice from my physician.

Don’t forget to wear your sunglasses.

Take a break from staring at your computer.

And at your age, perhaps next year you might want to entertain the idea of getting a pair of reading glasses.

(insert sound of record scratching here)

Wha?? AT MY AGE???

That is a careless and cruel farewell she gives me, and I vow to erase those dastardly words from my still soggy ears.

I walk out of her office with one helpful, sedating phrase: Out of sight, out of mind.


 November Gotta Have a Gott 

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. Last week, we revealed the winners, and today you can vote for the last month in the running and sign up to purchase Rob’s cartoons in calendar form. If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT,  place your order today ( info@robingott.com) and also see the cartoons in November’s competition so you can cast your vote.

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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60 thoughts on “A Sight for Sore Eyes

  1. Oh the ever popular eye exam. Why don’t you get a pair of reading glasses? Your arms will appreciate it. Your kids will be thrilled. Your Doc will be happy that you listened. You can even pick them up at CVS. Single magnification glasses work really well.for a while. Then, as you have to slowly increase the strength you will realize that, sure I can read, but what is that sigh up ahead. And then your Doc will bestow upon you the most coveted gift an eye Doctor can give. Bifocals. That most wondrous device that allows you to see both near and far. Far and near with just a slight nod of your head. Chin up close. Chin down far. And it really doesn’t take much practice before you can pull it off without looking like a Bobble Head doll. And you no longer will have to have a separate pair of sun glasses. You use those spiffy little clip on thingies. What better says chic than clip on sun glasses? So don’t you feel better,knowing what’s ahead? It’s not a case of age. Think of it more as a case of accessorizing.

    • Currently, I am clinging to my abilty to make a clean sweep of the skies and immediately spot any unusual species of bird, calculate the distance she is from the nearest potential perch, and with wings outstretched, I can identify just how many weeks pregnant she is as well.
      Okay, none of that is true. But it’s what I keep telling myself is possible if continue to put in the hours and effort of training.
      Or maybe I just finally need glasses.

      I’m playing a little bit of the trombone, but only with my eyephone, but apparently I don’t quite qualify. 1.0 is too strong. Next year I guess. Ugh. I don’t want accessories, Benson. I want my old eyeballs back.
      Still, thank you for heads up. I’m guessing I might as well start looking at plots of land and casket grades now too.

      • Oh you can put off caskets for a while. At least until you are able to see them. I always had great vision until I didn’t. So it’s no big deal. People tell me I look more studious. So, chin up. Here’s looking at you.

  2. ‘At your age!’ The indignity! You should have given her a poke in the eye and seen how she liked it! (An eye for an eye I always say…old school biblical.) Chuckleworthy post and drawings once again Mrs P and Mr G. 😁

    • Indeed, I was thoroughly miffed, Cheergerm. And I should have worn that “miff” like it was a great cloak of super entitled attitude and thrown the miffed muff right over my shoulder as I stormed out the door. But I see my doc at the grocery store every once and a while and that would get awkward–her wondering if I’d finally grown up a bit. Plus, I might not spot her until she was up close and then she’d make me come in for more of the far-sighted wonky tests.
      I slunk out. But indignantly so.

  3. Your eyes look good to me! But, I like the way you describe these tests. I had to do one, and the blighters put eye drops into my eyes, and then told me to sit at the hospital with my eyes closed for the next 3 hours

    • Yikes–three hours?? Those must have been some syrup slow dilation drops. I might have asked for a pillow, a blanket and cup of hot cocoa. Time for a kip.
      A million thanks for popping by, Rajiv. It’s always so good to see your words!

  4. My optometrist hated me when I was a first grader. I lied on every question of the test because I thought it was really silly. 😛 He set e straight though! “Oh my! You’re blind! We’ll need to do surgery…” “No! I lied! I lied! The red dot is on the table. .__.” 😛

    • Oooh, Alex, that was cruel of him. Surgery? I think you should hunt him down on some sort of social media medium and let him know that because of the way he chose to handle your joyful childhood shenanigans, you endured years of post traumatic psychotherapy and were scarred thus so that you were never able to have the much needed corrective surgery on an ankle injury twenty years ago and it’s kept you wheelchair bound ever since.
      Or maybe you can just “unlike” his practice on Facebook.
      Just a thought.

    • Yes, David, life on this side of the screen tends not to be interpreted as ‘run of the mill.’ But thankfully, it does provide a good source for creative non-fiction writing exercises. I suppose, despite the ophthalmic upheavals, I still see my life as colorful and worthy–and wonky. Yep. Really wonky.

    • Wha??? A reverse of aging eyeballs? How the heck did that happen, Pauline? Did you up your kale content? Find a new miracle eye exercise routine? Locate the optimal ocular vitamin? Spot the virgin Mary on a buttered piece of toast? Do tell! Many will want to know of your miracle.

      • (i will pretend, with this comment, that the last 2 weeks, eye-wise, didn’t happen.) (U no Y)
        my last official vizzit to the eye Doc — i was expecting to get a prescription FOR A DOG — he said “your vision is getting better!” so i got an eyeglass RX which was not-as-stringent as the previous.
        (very good chance that bit of ¿good news? has been reversed awlreddee)

      • 🙂 I did up my kale content, but no Virgin Mary on account of giving up toast…… Whether it happened because I took sugar and all processed foods out of my diet two years ago or because someone changed the rules on the need for specs while driving I have no idea – but I embrace it most happily! However I did get some reading specs at the same time – so perhaps it was a combination of long-sightedness meets increasing shortsightedness and they cancelled each other out.
        Lets just stick with it being a miracle 🙂

  5. My annual optician appointment is due in January. In recent years they have included the retinal scan, though the optician doesn’t put drops in my eyes.
    Also every year, my GP sends me an appointment for their diabetes eye clinic, and these guys DO use the drops (sting like hell).
    I’ve had two such appointments this year due to our move, but my eyes are fine, and all being well I won’t have to have a change of glasses in the New Year.
    I HATE the puff test (I always blink at the wrong moment), the ‘better with A or B’ scenario where there never seems to be much difference, ‘which is brighter, green or red’, and the red dot? Well, what red dot?
    Good news is that with age my eyes are getting better. Not exactly to the state where I can dispose of my glasses altogether (where are you???), but for reading I can do without.
    As for those color blindness tests, a walk in the park for me. But the Magic 3D pictures? Just blobs. Even those funny 3D glasses didn’t work and it turns out that some people’s eyes are ‘just like that’. Ho hum.

    • I would imagine, Jane, that your eyes–or at least one of them–are super important to you. Do the French have a smoother way of handling keeping their peepers in prime condition? If so, I may start packing my bags, as that hillside of yours is looking more and more attractive.

      • You’re quite right Shelley and I confess that having always had excellent eyesight I’ve never worrried about it but am now getting to the ‘at your age’ stage where I will soon have to find out 😦 🙂 (I’ll let you know what the French version is like when I do o_O )

  6. All familiar tortures for this eye-challenged gal, my least favorite being the pupil dilation (especially when one has to drive home on a sunny day). And I have trouble answering those A or B questions. I end up just picking one to satisfy them. Heaven knows what that has done to my prescriptions.
    As for the reading glasses, trust me, you will hate them even as you can’t live without them. I take mine on and off seventy times a day, but I refuse to get those “half” glasses where you look over the rim.

    • I am so hopeful, Linnet, that technology is going to make a few impressive leaps forward this year and come up with some unfathomable alternative to reading glasses. Maybe some sort of material science discovery–a daily ocular coating–that will be delivered via a simple vitamin each morning? I’m stretching here, but hey, it could happen. I carry around a device in my pocket that has the answer to every question I can think of and that was unthinkable ten years ago. Right?

  7. Shelley,

    Two months ago or so I was given the tap on the shoulder and the “welcome to the club” line. What club…? Oh, progressives. Bifocals, progressives, whatever. Much better but dang are they expensive, like house payment expensive. Then they had the guts to suggest I purchase a second pair. Oh yeah, why not… and how long will I ahve to put off paying my college bill this time?

    They still mess with my mind a bit though as the Dr. said not to look down at the steps when going up or down. Ok, that I get, but getting through an unfamiliar doorway or hall? The walls move, I could swear.

    Great article and I love the “at your age” line. Does it make you miss high school?

    Much love,

    Stoshu 🙂

    • This is a club I wish I would be barred entrance to. Ugh, you poor fellow. The walls move?? Oh, for heaven’s sake. And the expense? I’ve got a year to figure this conundrum out. Or die. I could just bypass the whole problem and kick the bucket early. I have to weigh my options.
      And no. High school can stay firmly in the past where it belongs. Growing fuzzy and dim with time and distance.

  8. I feel your pain, I did it myself recently, and horrified my optometrist with a second head growing out of my eyelid. And now that I think of it, it might have been that chin strap that got me so sick…

    • Holy cow, those are some serious sounding, highly infectious chin trays your office is offering up. But I suppose there have been times where two heads are better than one, so … it might not be a horrific deal.

  9. we’ve very recently bantered about and around this in other post-exchanges. how topical. how coincidental. if i had your writing ability (and some fairy-gawwd-phawthur illustrations) we both know i could make your description of the recent ordeal seem like visiting dante’s first and upper level of U-NO-WEAR, compared to … maybe i’ll send you the rough draft!
    bottom line: a week ago there was the not-slim likelihood of half blindedness (just one eye!) — now it looks like i’ll have the use of, if not two, then 1.75 …
    and contrary to what many of my co-werkers and peers think, it was not caused by all those pucks bouncing off my head! (or so the doctor sez)

    • I’m really sorry to laugh, but that line about getting a prescription for a dog is absolutely priceless. I think I’ll be chuckling over that one for a while. But on the flip side, I’m really sorry to hear about the whole scary ordeal. I think I would have had a cow if I woke up and found one eye had decided not to show up for work. What a relief that a fair amount of function will be returned though. And I think you should go ahead and blog about it–your writing has it’s own flavor that I find unique to only you. Wouldn’t want to see it any other way (fingers crossed we can both keep seeing what the hell we’re writing for as long as possible!).

      • one weeeurd sighed-affect is the gas bubble IN THE EYE which bobbles about and over whatever yer tryin’ to look at. (I did not comment on THAT in the post. i hope i left out most of the ~ pain ~ ). oh: the bubble is diminishing and allegedly will completely dissapate, eventually.

        • Egads that sounds horrific. I think I’d be searching for the nearest sterilized needle and magnified makeup mirror. (okay, and maybe a fifth of scotch for bravery–er wait–for sterilization purposes).
          Poor guy.
          I look forward to reading the post.

          • the we(a)eek of convalescence: i became pretty used to sleeping (or just lying) most the day, beer or whiskey not too far away. and i made (unintentional, as usual) TWO “head saves” a week ago!

  10. When I got my laser eye surgery 10 years ago they told me that I should still expect to need reading glasses in my 40s because that’s just what happens. I scoffed at his words. Now, at age 48, after 2 years of squinting at menus in dimly lit restaurants and holding a shampoo bottle as far away as my arm will extend to read the ingredients list, I finally have an arsenal of reading glasses throughout my house, in my purse(s) and computer bags. Annoying as all hell but my only option. I couldn’t do progressive bifocals if I wanted to as my distance vision is still 20/20. The joy of aging.

  11. Hey, Shelley. I have been through these torture-filled tests many times. Thank you for capturing this so perfectly. 🙂 Is it just me, or as you get older, those eye drops sting your eyes more? Ay, carumba! And now that I have these masses of floaters in my eyes (about which apparently they can do nothing, despite all advances in modern science), checking my vision becomes that “wait…nope, not sure yet – that one. No, the other one is better. Wait, can we look again?” Sigh. My regular vision is bad enough – and I just know that reading glasses will be next. The solution? Cybernetic eyeballs, clearly. Come on, people. You can do it!

    • YES! Cybernetic eyeballs. Why didn’t I think of that? And why hasn’t anyone else yet? So many mind-blowing advancements in science have been clearly displayed in science fiction writing, right, Sue? Surely you’ve got gobs of ideas you can lob over to the ophthalmology department of your nearest research university. I’m counting on you. We’ve not much time!

  12. The one doctor I don’t mind visit, that I’m not deathly afraid of is the Optometrist. Nothing hurt when I’m in his or her examination room. And, although I do wear glasses, I’m fairly certain that the doctor isn’t going to find anything terrible wrong.

    • It feels good to look at a part of your body and give it a solid pat of “well done, Bud.” I’ve got one kneecap that is still looking good and functioning in top model shape. I may just spend an extra minute gazing down adoringly at it today.
      Lucky you with those prime peepers, Glynis. Long may they last.

  13. When your physician notices all the stolen sterile gloves, she will definitely regret she said, “At your age.” Then your revenge will be complete. The only comfort is that at least it was not a day spent at the dentist’s….

    • You’re a thousand percent right. Any day is better than the dentist chair. I could easily come up with dozens of examples, but it’s way too close to dinner and I don’t want to turn anyone’s stomach. But seriously, my mind is rife with examples.

  14. Oh it all sounds painfully familiar. I have the nicest optometrist which makes it all bearable but that puff in the eye test gets me every time. I take a slow, even yoga breath and do okay for the first eye, but once your eyes know what’s coming, you can forget about the sneak attack.

    Great piece of writing, Shelley, along with Rob’s always humorous drawings. You two make a great team.

    • Well, that’s half the battle then, isn’t it, Alys? The slow even yoga breath? And here all along I’ve been doing the breakneck birthing class breathing. Next year I’m doing it your way. 50% of something is better than 100% of nothing.
      And many thanks for the lovely compliments. Daymaker. 😀

  15. I survived a few years of probably-needs-glasses with dollar-store reading glasses. (Note: They’re not to great for driving). To me, the extensive exam is still a novelty. I met friends for lunch after my last exam, and they were afraid of me driving back with dilated pupils.

    They didn’t find the humor of me running into a wall on my way out. It was on purpose. I think.

    • A practical joker, eh, Eli?
      And thanks for the tip on the dollar store. I suppose at this time I’ll find myself spotting ads everywhere, and sales popping up repeatedly. It’ll likely drive me crazy.
      Such is life, but I’m resigned to want to see mine clearly … eventually.

  16. We really are kindred spirits, Shelley–I worry about the germs on that chin rest, too! Since they disinfect it after every use, I figure it’s cleaner than most things we come in contact with, but still… And I find myself puzzling over the refraction test, too. Oftentimes I’m tempted to ask, “Is that a trick question? What if neither of them look better than the other?” I have to use the Amsler grid on a regular basis, and I’ve finally gotten the hang of that and have conquered the urge not to look away from the black dot. 🙂

    • You use the Amsler grid? For work? Are you an Ophthalmologist in your spare time? Are you a diagnostic tool technician? Do just like plotting the progress of things? I could go on guessing.
      And yes, it looks like we’re twin germaphobes as well. Makes me laugh, Miranda.

      • Nah, I have familial drusen in my eyes, so every so often I use the Amsler grid between eye appointments to make sure everything’s okay. And you know I’m a big germaphobe. 😛 It appears that we’re going to have to rely on excessive handwashing to keep us healthy this season, since the flu vaccine isn’t very effective this time around.

  17. Awesome. Thanks for saying what I was thinking last Friday. I managed to miss my exit and almost ran out of gas because I was hyper dialated. The best part was when I strolled into the store looking like a boss in in my brand new dialation sunglasses that i had over my real glasses. #ballin

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