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» Spec-tacular

Family life 21 Nov 2013 10:16 pm


Tilt head up. Tilt head down. Repeat for the rest of your natural life.

These aren’t the directions that came with my new glasses, but they should. For the first time, I am wearing progressive lenses, which is the nice way of saying “bifocals” for those who are sensitive to such things.

It’s not like I haven’t seen it coming. (Of course, if I’d seen it coming, I wouldn’t need glasses.) A few years back my eye doctor told me that bifocals progressive lenses were a distinct possibility, but his workaround (likely in response to my look of abject horror) was to have me wear a disposable contact in my right eye and none in my left.

This cyclopean solution would have worked well enough if the lens stayed in my eye. Instead, it popped out at the most inopportune moments, including once when I was zipping up at the urinal. I chalked that one up to experience.

More often, I would look down just in time to spot a lens parachuting onto my desk or my arm, where it proceeded to shrivel up like a vampire in the sun or a Republican in a soup kitchen.

After a few months of this, I just gave up on contact lenses — and glasses, too, for that matter. Instead, I just walked around squinting, fancying myself a modern age Popeye the Sailor. Eventually, though, every seaman has to come into port, where his landlubbing optometrist awaits.

The plus side of bifocals progressive lenses is that I can now actually see students in the back of the room. Prior to this, they were just animated lumps in hoodies and T-shirts whose features I could make out only when I squinted, which happened only when boredom overtook them and their heads collapsed with audible thumps upon their desks. (This happens more often than you might imagine.)

The negative side is that when I wear the glasses to read or work on the computer, I must restrict my vision to the lower third of the lenses in order for letters to appear sharply in focus. Otherwise, everything looks like somebody has smeared Vaseline on the lenses. (This happens, again, more often than you might imagine.)

Hence, the constant tilting of my head up and down, until my forehead is almost parallel with the ceiling and my wife asks me if I am performing some type of transcendental meditation while I read. Sometimes, I will fool her by intoning “Ohm! Ohm!” over and over until she tiptoes away.

They tell me — they being the first 100 people in the phone book — that after a while the dizziness and disorientation from the bifocals progressive lenses will disappear, that wearing them will become as natural as riding a bike.

A couple things about that analogy bothers me. One is that it took me a ridiculous amount of time to learn to ride a bike. Long after my friends were pedaling happily down the street, I was still clutching the handlebars in a death grip and ricocheting off trees and fence posts. (My parents didn’t trust me to learn on the road, so I smashed into objects in the backyard instead.)

Secondly, I don’t sit on a bike every waking second of every day, but I should wear my new glasses with that frequency. If I follow the learning-to-ride analogy, I’ll park my glasses in the garage for months at a time and return to them only when I’m truly desperate.

Which is kind of what I’m doing, anyway. (Minus the parking in the garage.) I’m not wearing my new bifocals progressive lenses as I type these words; they’ve been in their case since last night, when I last drove. I might wear them again a little bit tomorrow, as I’ve grown accustomed to seeing some of the students in the back row. (They’re actually pretty nice.)

But I need to progress slowly to all-day, everyday status. All this up, down, up, down stuff is literally a pain in the neck.

cschillig on Twitter

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One Response to “Spec-tacular”

  1. on 22 Nov 2013 at 1.Susan Denning said …

    You are used to moving your eyes a lot and your head a little but with progressive lens you need to move your eyes less and your head (or reading materials) more. It is tricky until you get used to it. Be certain to look through the TOP of your glasses as you descend steps!

    However if you are holding your head at an unnatural angle to read, the placement of the second lens on the glass may need to be adjusted. It is challenging to get it in the right spot the first time. Your eye doctor can change the lens placement. (I know mine would not charge for that change for someone adjusting to a first pair.)

    I began using corrective lens for the first time when got bifocals 20 years ago. The trifocals came 15 years ago. After all this time I tend to get vertigo when I’m without them.

    I knew you were progressive, Chris. You did not have to get glasses to prove it. Welcome to the club.

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