Thursday, February 07, 2008

The vision thing

Actually, two vision things today, vaguely. First: you know what's kind of awesome? Being in a meeting where someone's Seeing Eye dog is snoring really loudly, under the table. Awesome, and hilarious.

Second: last week I made a visit to the eye doctor. It had been about three years since my last appointment; my prescription hasn't changed that much, but my contact lenses are just worn and scratched enough that they're starting to collect little calcium deposits (so says the doc) that no amount of by-hand scrubbing will remove. The little bleary, smeary speckles drifting across my field of vision were driving me nuts; plus, I'd like to be able to switch things up occasionally with an up-to-date pair of glasses. Hence the visit.

My current optometrist runs a little mom-and-pop office in my neighborhood, literally: he and his wife run the place, and last time I was there they had their baby son rolling around on a play mat in the lobby. (He's now three, and across the street at daycare, heh.) It's always a friendly, chatty visit, resoundingly different from the incredibly intimidating old bastard who examined my eyes and exuded general disapproving menace when I was a kid.

The doctor I saw as a child was located downtown, in the Cobb Building, a beautiful old brick pile now converted to luxury condos. At the time, I found even the building itself frightening, for two reasons: one, its ornamental trim featured enormous terra-cotta busts of an Indian chief in full feather headdress, and I was perpetually afraid that one of these would come loose and crush me on the street below. Beyond that, they just looked angry. Two, across the street was the even more terrifying Rainier Tower, an office building that tapers down into a slender pedestal, like a pencil point. I didn't know shit about structural engineering, at eight--still don't--and (as the photographer for the link above notes) at the time I found it hella creepy. If the Indian heads didn't get you, the teetering tower surely would.

Add to that the fact that going to the optometrist was just...scary. I can't remember the guy's name, but he was old and brusque and had little patience for children. "Which is better, one or two? Oneortwo?" he'd bark, flipping sample lenses back and forth in the huge black phoropter (thanks for that $10 word, Wikipedia!) clamped to your face like a cast-iron torture device. Omigod, what if you got it wrong? What would he do to you then? I lived in dread of finding out; the way he'd irritably peel back my cringing eyelids for the stinging dilation drops was awful enough. I think Dr. Mean Bastard triple-booked his appointments, too, just to feed his own self-importance; I can remember waiting and waiting with my mother in the grim green lobby.

Most of the equipment in my current optometrist's office is sleek and modern and computerized; the phoropter is smooth, molded beige plastic. The doctor and I got to chatting about my medieval reminiscences, and I mentioned how huge and deadly the device had been in the 70s. "Well, probably it seemed a lot bigger when your head was like this," he suggested, holding up his hands to suggest the span of a honeydew melon.

He had to dilate my eyes this time, so while we waited for my pupils to start looking like Jim Morrison's, I strolled around the lobby glancing at swanky designer frames. "Want to try some out?" asked Dr. Mrs. Eye Doctor from behind her desk. I hedged. "I'm cheap; I just want to take the prescription to, like, LensCrafters," I said.

"Oh, try 'em on," she scoffed, and came out to hand me approximately 30 more varieties of frame than I would have selected myself. (In this way, it was not unlike a professional bra fitting.)

"Nothing too square," I said, squinting crazy-pupilled at myself in the mirror. "My face is already little bit square..." She handed me a particularly angular pair and stepped back.

"Oh, I see what you mean. About your jaw," she said pointedly. Yes, my head is actually a perfect cube, lady. Let's try to de-emphasize my Rockem-Sockem Robots qualities, shall we? Naturally, we did end up finding at least half a dozen that were perfectly acceptable, and for only a few hundreds of dollars. She wrote all the models down for me, so we wouldn't forget. Sigh. I will have to drag Sis along for a second opinion, I think.

At last I looked sufficiently swacked out of my mind, and the doctor took me back into the exam room and set me up in front of another examination device, this one connected to a digital camera and a huge LCD monitor. I twitted the doctor a bit about his operating system of choice--no comment--while he snapped a series of photographs of the insides of my eyeballs and projected them on the monitor, the size of basketballs. He pointed out my optic nerves, a tiny bit of retinal scarring, while I stared fascinated and a tiny bit squeamish all at once. Blown up to that size, lit orange-ish from within and traced with red veins, my eyes resembled Mars, as much as anything. Strange scanned planets, or...breasts, honestly.

My new lenses would arrive in about 10 days, they told me. Unprompted--but perhaps inspired by my general interest in the whole computer end of things?--the doctor printed off a souvenir glossy photo for me. Of my eyeballs. Postcard size, left and this dimension, more like blood oranges, or bizarre cocktail olives, but still faintly obscene. If you didn't know what you were looking at, at first, you'd think, inappropriate! Actually, you might still. Windows of the soul and all that. Little red planets. "Here you go," the doctor said, handing me the print. "Um...thanks," I said dumbly, slipping it into my purse.

I have it pinned to the corkboard above my desk at work, now. You question the legitimacy of my leaving early for an appointment, you say? Take that, suckers!


Holly said...

Oh thank you for letting me laugh like that! Exactly what I needed. (Your head isn't really a perfect cube, you know.) And I know where I'm making an appointment next time I'm in Seattle! I want one of those postcards! Dr. Mean Bastard reminded me of my first visit to an OB/GYN. Unfortunately, her name wasn't made up: Dr. Dick. She would have given those stone Indians a scare, I'll tell you.

chicklegirl said...

Oh, Holly--a female Dr. Dick? At least she wasn't a urologist.

Kim, this was so hilarious, and I loved the links to the pictures of the buildings. The Rainier Tower always gave me the skeeves, too. And this post triggered flashbacks of going to my old orthodontist in the nearby Medical Dental building on Olive Street. He was a genial old Japanese guy, but in the five years that I went to him, he kept calling me "Kathy", never could get my name right. It always rubbed me the wrong way; I figured for all my parents were paying him, he could at least get my name right. But I can't complain too much, because he wasn't a sadist.

norishoji said...

hi from the past kim...i stumbled across your site from katie's and am so glad i did...i look back fondly on your witty humor...i've missed it! nori (aka noriko)

Gael said...

Ooh, what's the name of your optometrist? We go downtown to Spex, but I would love to get a closer one...