Sunday, September 15, 2013


It occurred to me that our vision is the foremost tool we have to assess the state of our aging bodies.  At least it is with me… my vision has been on the express train to geezen-hood ever since junior high school.

I mentioned it in passing once before, in a post about playing little league baseball, but I never even knew my eyesight was bad until they tested me in 8th grade.  I knew something was amiss because I used to be a pretty good ballplayer, but then suddenly, during the summer after 7th grade, I couldn't hit anymore.  In fact, I sucked.  I didn't know what happened to me.

And in classes, I couldn't see the assignments written on the blackboard.  Not being one to call attention to myself, I certainly didn't want to move up closer to the front, nor did I want to let on to the teacher.  So when class was over, I’d walk slowly by the board and try to get a good look at the assignment.  If I was distracted, or it was unclear, well, I just didn't do it.  But I figured everyone else was in the same boat too.

So I finally got tested along with the rest of my class, during the school year.  And that summer, I was fitted for my first pair of glasses. 

Holy shit!  I was amazed!  I had no idea the other kids, or ANYONE could see that clearly.  I really didn't know what I was missing.

Of course, problems arose as well.  Now I had to be careful when playing sports or roughhousing.  My glasses would get pretty banged up over the course of a year.  I always had teardrop-shaped wire rims, (what can I say, it was the 70s), so it wasn't like the frames would snap.  But I bent the shit out of them all right.  I also became versed in popping the lens back into place after it fell out.

For organized sports and gym class, I got one of those straps to go around the back of my head, to keep them on.  Better for them to get bent on my face than fall off and get trampled.
My first pair of glasses is on the left. (Yes, really.)  My latest pair is on the right.
Yes, way in the back of my wardrobe, I found my first set of specs.  You can see the bend in the frames.  The other set is from the mid-90s.  I never wear them because they are about a half-dozen prescriptions behind.

My brother got contact lenses first, during the onset of “soft-lenses.”  I guess he was as tired as I was of getting his glasses busted up.  I watched him go through the daily routine for about a year before I decided to give them a try.  I had just finished my freshman year in college and was trying to upgrade my “look.”  I found that having crooked, beat up glasses on my face was not doing me any favors with the ladies.  (College or otherwise.)

If you remember contacts from the early 80s, you remember what a treat it was to take care of them.  Man, the “state of the art” of contact lenses has really changed in 30 years.  You had to be pretty dedicated back then, to keep a pair of lenses for any length of time.

Back then, you got one set and they were expected to last about a year.  But to do so, you had to be a maniac about maintenance.  First of all, do you remember the “cookers?”  Every night, you’d have to clean your lenses with cleaning drops, rinse them with saline, put them in the case, and put the case in a heating unit for disinfection.

Then once a week, you had to dissolve 2 “enzymatic tablets” into distilled water, put your lenses in the vials and leave them overnight.  That was to prevent protein deposits from forming on your lenses.  Once you got a deposit on your lens, it wasn't coming off.  It felt like you had a permanent grain of sand in your eye.

But even with all that, the payoff was worth it.  Contact lenses gave me complete peripheral vision and eliminated the worry about getting jostled about the head while playing sports.  Plus, I finally got to wear sunglasses.  It didn't matter if you had that automatic tinting feature, they never looked as cool as a pair of shades.

From college on through the 90s, I wore contacts most of the time, with a pair of glasses as a backup.  I’d wear the glasses on weekends, or right after I got up until it was time to get dressed.  But by the end of the 90s, I pretty much let the glasses go.  I’d put in my contacts as soon as I got up, and take them out immediately before bed.

Obviously, the nature of contact lenses has changed over the years.  Now, you can sleep in them, or put in a new set every day.  Me?  I get the kind that you can wear for about a month, and then try to keep them for two months.  I change them when they start to feel heavier or less clear.

I never fret about daily cleaning.  It’s just part of my morning ritual now.  There’s no more cooker, no cleaning drops, and no more enzymatic tablets.  The saline is “all-in-one,” which is good because it sucked when you didn't get all the cleaner off the lens.  It felt like getting grapefruit juice squirted in your eye.
A sampling of contact lens cases I have in my cabinet right now.  The one I use is on the far left.
It’s a wonder I’m not blind, though, because I tend to use a maintenance routine of my own devising, rather than following the directions.  I know you’re supposed to change contact cases all the time because they provide one with every bottle of saline.  But I still like having that one “go-to” case.  The one I use, that one on the left?  That’s what my earliest cases looked like, so deep down, that’s what I think they should all look like, so it’s the only one I use.  I keep the others for emergencies, or to keep spare contacts. 

I usually keep the pair that I last replaced, unless they were really bad.  Then I can wear it again if I damage a lens, at least until it’s time to replace the other one.  No sense in creating an odd set.

Every so often, both eyes become equally bad.  That makes it really easy because there is never a risk of putting a lens in the wrong eye.  But most of the time, each eye has a different prescription.  Especially now…

At my last visit to the eye doc, he told me there wasn't much he could do for me, to keep both eyes on an equal basis.  He could shoot for somewhere in the middle, where I could see “adequately” at a mid-range, but I would sacrifice both distance and close-up.  If I were wearing glasses, I’d be a prime candidate for bifocals.  But to translate that to contact lenses, they do something completely different.

So now, the lens in my right eye is geared for distance and the one in my left is made for close up.  I don’t know how that even works for anything in between, but somehow, it does.  It’s not perfect though.  Everything to the left tends to be a bit fuzzier than to the right.  But if I have to scope for a street sign, I can feel myself bearing down on the right eye.  It makes me feel like the old “Bionic Man.”  “Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo…”

Same with reading something close up. I find myself tilting my head to the right to dig in with that left eye.  So far, the only downside I foresee is going to 3-D movies.  I need to ask about that, but I don’t see how it can work effectively.  Luckily, I still have my last set of equalizing lenses from my prior prescription.  I can always break them out for a 3-D movie if I need to.

Sometimes when I talk “contacts” with a non-contact wearer, they express apprehension about sticking things in their eye.  All I can say is that you get used to it.  But also, there are ways to getting around it.  The key is not to look at your finger approaching your eyeball. 

The last time I was at the eye doctor, he mentioned that he wanted to see me put my lenses in because he likes to see how everyone does it.  I guess we’re all like snowflakes.

Once I have the lens cleaned, I take it off my right index finger with my left hand, then maneuver it onto my right middle finger, for placement.  (I change fingers because the lens comes off a dry finger easier than a wet one, which the index finger still is.)  Then, looking into the mirror, I pull my lower lid down with my right ring finger and place the lens on the white part beneath the iris.  The white part tends to be less sensitive than the iris and pupil.  Then, I grasp the upper eyelash to pull the eyelid down over the lens.  Rolling the eye around smooths out any bubbles.

While I prefer to use a mirror, I can also go without, and just stare forward.  Either way, you don’t look directly at the finger. 

So… corrective lenses… what’s your deal?


Jessica R. said...

My mom, to this day, still has to wear hard contacts because her vision is so terrible. You would think with all the evolution in lens wear they would have fixed that problem too.

Unapologetically Mundane said...

I started wearing contacts sometime in high school, and after maybe a year of soft lenses, my mom convinced me to get hard lenses like she wore. I kept wearing those suckers up until halfway through college, when I realized that I'd been suffering for absolutely no reason at all. My hard contacts were always dry, so I was forever putting in drops and, like, getting them knocked out of my eyes by the wind. Miserable. I think I (and everyone else) look better in glasses, but I can't convince myself to deal with the annoyance of them for fashion.

bluzdude said...

My old post-college roommate (from the Summer of Bow-Chikka-Wow Wow stories) had to wear hard contacts too. I thought they were so weird. They were like little bubbles that only covered the pupil, rather than my much larger soft lenses, that covered the whole iris. Hers were the kind you used to see in movies where someone would go, “Nobody move, I just lost a contact lens,” and then everyone would crawl around until someone found it.

Are you sure they haven’t come up with a better way for your mom to wear contacts? The science has progressed so far… Maybe it just hasn’t come to the Bayou yet… ;o)

bluzdude said...

Your mom talked you OUT of soft lenses and into hard lenses?? What, was she on their payroll or something? I’d have to be like, “Sorry, Mom, but no freakin’ way.”

I think eyeglasses as fashion items are vastly over-rated. Contacts don’t get steamy, rain-speckled or knocked askew, nor do they get in the way while making out like crazed weasels. Although when I first got them, I thought they made me look more thoughtful and mature. But what did I know? I was in 9th grade…

Mary Ann said...

Between your hair, beard and glasses, I didn't know what you looked like for about three years.
Glad to see your face now!

Anonymous said...

I was not aware that you were supposed to change your contact case. Huh. Is that like changing your toothbrush? Because I'm not so good at that either.

I have an owl case. The eyes are the part you screw off. It's blue. I like it. I don't think I'll be changing it any time soon.

Your routine to put in your eyes is complex. I just aim, release and blink. Usually works out just fine.

bluzdude said...

Trust me, it was an improvement.

bluzdude said...

I’m sure I wait far too long before changing my toothbrush, as well. I’m like, “Wait, I still see a few scraps of blue on the sides… it’s still got some life yet…” Meanwhile, it looks like Wilford Brimley’s mustache.

My routine is not complex… just a little finger manipulation, to get the lens on a dry finger. When the finger is wet, the lens tends to stick to it more, instead of releasing into the eye. I suppose I don’t need to pull my eyelid over the lens, but 20 years ago, I would blink for the first time, and the lens would slip out. So I invented the pullover process. Now it’s just habit. I just hope I don’t lose my eyelashes.

sherry stanfa-stanley said...

I have a muscular imbalance in my eyes, which neither contacts nor LASIK surgery can correct. I do wear contacts now and then, but I am pretty much stuck with glasses for day-to-day vision.

The good news is, I had my lifelong shoulder-length hair cut short this summer, and discovered I actually look better in my glasses now than I do without them. At least I think I do. My reflection's pretty foggy when I try to view myself without them...

bluzdude said...

Yeah, that’s like something Steven Wright once said… “We can never really see how we look in sunglasses.”