The Theory of Chaos

Friday, July 14, 2006

A tale of spectacles

I was in 4th grade when faraway objects started looking blurry, and I started getting the headaches. My parents both wear glasses so it wasn’t surprising that I’d show a spot of the old myopia before long. I didn’t relish the thought – being the smart kid in class was bad enough, add a second pair of eyes on my face and I was really going to be asking for it.

My mother took me to an eye doctor named Dr. Poon. I’ll never forget Dr. Poon – not from him did I get the usual battery of “letter charts”, “eye tests” and other “science-based” hoogah-boogah. The most rigorous test I remember came when he asked me to lie on my back on the floor underneath a rubber ball he’d suspended from a string. He let the ball swing this way and that, asked me to track its movement with my eyes, and would throw math problems out for me to solve as I did it. Hell, I was nine and living in the suburbs of Cincinnati, as far as I knew this was the bleeding edge in optical research.

When all that was done he confronted my mother: “
Your son’s vision is fine, Mrs. Thurkettle. You simply never taught him…how to see.

My mother, kind and empathetic Christian woman that she is, immediately took that in the gut, feeling like she’d somehow failed me. Then some sense of reason took hold and she sought a second opinion. The next eye doctor had me read letter charts on a wall, shined a light into my retina, and said I needed glasses.

I tried, passively, to avoid my fate. When we went to the local LensCrafters I didn’t express enthusiasm for any of their frames. My mother picked one for me and asked me how I liked it, and I told a silly kid’s lie: “
Well, they make me see better”, not knowing, of course, that sample frames don’t have prescription glass in them.

Finally I got some big clunky gray things that took up half of my face. My mother thought they matched the fashion of the time, and given that this was Cincinnati in 1986, she may well have been right. This was when the coolest car on our block was the neighbor’s IROC-Z.

By the time we moved to California I knew these things would not do. For awhile at my new middle school I would pocket my glasses after I got out the front door, which made bicycling to school a little hazardous. But I gave it up, because the nerds spotted me as one of their own anyway. I think there’s a pheromone involved.

But in the summer between middle school and high school I had a chance for salvation – I got fitted for contact lenses (aka life-saving nerd camouflage), and bought a new pair of back-up glasses to boot. The frames were on the $49 clearance rack at the optometrist’s, and in my 13-year-old mind they were about as cool as glasses could get, little oval John Lennon-looking things.

My eyes have changed a lot in the fifteen years since, which should be fairly obvious. My head has gotten bigger since then, too – from puberty, eating and my GIGANTIC EGO (
rimshot!) But the glasses have stayed the same. Some stubbornness involved, I’m sure, some unwillingness to let go of the one satisfactory pair I ever found, but they were getting pretty run-down, and the headaches from wearing them for too long were getting pretty severe. But it never occurred to me to replace them at any time where I had a couple hundred dollars conveniently lying around. I was on the verge when I had health insurance, a fat savings account and a new eye doctor two years ago – then I got downsized and needed all my savings to, you know, eat.

So putting these babies out to pasture has been a long time coming:

Note the missing nose guard, the loving build-up of mysterious amber grime, the bent arms, the stripped color on the frames – these are the kind of glasses you see third world refugee children wearing with their Vanilla Ice T-shirts.

Finally this week, thanks to the convention job, the script option money and my old apartment being unusually generous with the return of my security deposit, I enjoyed a brief spell of fiscal solidity, and finally, finally I took advantage. So now I'm proud to present, the new model 2006 Nick, with extra Ironic Detachment and 20 percent more Dork!:

Hey baby…want to see my Dawn of the Dead DVD?


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