The woman at motor vehicle told me to place my forehead against the headrest and read the top line from the eye chart. I peered in, then backed up. “I think you need to focus this,” I said. She gave me a wry smile and said to do my best. Squinting, blinking, straining, I did just that. “Why don’t you try one more time,” she said.
I took a deep breath and realized that this once-every-decade inconvenience had suddenly taken on grave importance. I was on the verge of being unable to renew my driver’s license.
I never understood the difference between near- and far-sighted. Did being near-sighted mean you could see well at close distance? Or did it mean you needed reading glasses? I never knew. I had great vision, so what did I care?
It started several years ago. We’d be in the car, and I started noticing that my wife could read street signs before I could. We’d be in a pub and I’d have to ask her to read the sports scores on the televisions across the room. Then, more recently, I began complaining that the text in Legend of Zelda; Breath of the Wild was too small. We have a 65-inch 4k TV. We’d stream a foreign film and I’d squint at the subtitles, thinking that our TV, one we picked out in the Sony showroom in Tokyo, wasn’t worth nearly what we paid for it.
Sitting at the optometrist’s office, I stared through the eye exam machine, straining to read the eye charts, still believing my eyes were fine. It was the machine that was out of focus. It was all a trick. And what difference does it make if I can’t read tiny text from across a dimly-lit room? We went through chart after chart, the optometrist turning dials, changing the lens, and asking me to choose which is better. “Before or after?” The dials flipped. Again. “Before or after?”
The differences were sometimes so negligible, I could only imagine them. The barrage of tests concluded, she turned the dials to what would be my prescription.
With my pupils freakishly dilated thanks to some eye drops, the ophthalmologist (thank you spellcheck) confirmed I have no glaucoma or cataracts. Healthy-wise my eyes were in great shape. But I had fallen from the land of 20/20 to 20/30 in one eye, 20/35 in the other. Would I consider Lasik? Whoa, hold on a moment. Let’s not get carried away.
Life’s Rich Details
I ordered the glasses, figuring I’d use them while watching television, at the movies, or while driving at night. Do I want to pay extra for transitions lenses that automatically become sunglasses in bright light? No.
That was dumb.
I got the glasses a week later. I pulled them on and was instantly amazed. Everything was brighter, crisper, and slightly magnified. I pulled them off after a moment,oohing and aahing enough to draw attention. Across the room, a sign read “Johnson.” Or so I thought. With the glasses on, I could see it clearly said “Provident.” I walked outside, a bit self-conscious about the glasses, but simply amazed at how much better I was able to see. I honestly had very little idea that my vision had been deteriorating, other than the aforementioned examples which were of little significance.
At home, I looked at the painting we have over our couch and saw, for the first time in memory, the wonderful detail in the brush strokes. There was a part of the painting that I always thought was intentionally smeared. It wasn’t. Just my vision. The fabric of our wingback reading chairs… the same thing. Such lovely detail in the pattern that I hadn’t noticed in over a year. Maybe longer. And our TV? It’s amazing. Just like I remembered.
I now where the glasses all the time, unless I’m reading or working on the computer. I don’t need them for close-ups. Near-sighted means you struggle with far-off objects. And I’m already looking forward to getting transitions lenses next time.
As for Lasik, that’s a road I’ll cross if I ever get to the point where I can’t mountain bike or go trail running without glasses. Maybe contacts first. We’ll see.
As for my driver’s license, I passed. I was able to read enough of the middle letters in order to pass, but the lady at the DMV suggested I get myself to an eye doctor right away. If you haven’t gone in a few years, I recommend you do the same. My vision had deteriorated at such an imperceptible rate that I had just come to believe what I saw was normal. When it goes south over the course of years, it’s hard to realize something is wrong.
And then, one day, you find yourself asking someone to focus the eye test machine at the DMV for you.