Monday, September 13, 2010

on the red or on the green? 

I have had dealings with this optometrist before but that was just to adjust some frames that were hurting my nose. I have not previously had a sight test with her.

"Are the circles clearer on the red or on the green?" says the (no longer heavily pregnant) optometrist.

The adjustment of frames took place in the front of the shop. Now I'm in the back room with the charts of letters and such. It's a small, dark, private, quiet space.


She adjusts a lens in the funny-looking sight test spectacles.

"And now?"



Some more back and forth about the circles and she arrives at an improved prescription that allows me to read the smallest letters on the chart with ease.

Then she puts on a face mask, which is not something any previous optician who's tested me has felt the need for.

"Look straight ahead."

She leans in and shines the tiny bright torch thingy straight into my right eye. This, I think, is so she can look at the inside of my eye. To do this she has to get her face very close to mine.

"And look right."

Closer than anyone normally puts their face to mine.

"And look left."

Unless they intend me to kiss it.

"And look up."

When she's not speaking I hear her breath. It's all strangely intimate. Even with the face mask.

"And down."

At this point she has to hold my eyelid up. There are very few people who get to touch my face in the usual course of things. Of course my previous optician also did so at this point in the numerous eye examinations he gave me but somehow the strangeness of it never hit me quite so forcibly as it does now.


Then she does the other eye. Her face blurrily close, her soft voice directing my actions, her breath... I do as I am told.

Afterwards she is quite frank about her suspicion that my last prescription (from my previous optician) was rather inaccurate. She couches the unmistakable sternness in kind language but in essence she's criticising her predecessor. Optically speaking, she's having a go at my ex.

Back in the sunlit shopfront I pay the young receptionist woman. I am, if I'm honest, surprised to discover the charge is 40 quid.

But after due consideration I consider this good value.

I wonder if it ever strikes the optometrists how weird it is? Ot do you think they are thinking "oh, not another one who's thinking how weird this is..." x

Did she sit on your lap?

No, Thomas, she did not.

Nor did I attempt to slip a twenty pound note into her stocking top.

The part of my brain that likes to cause difficulties always tries to make me laugh when I'm sitting with the optometrist's face right up to mine. It's become a kind of tradition now that I struggle with it and even dread having my eyes tested because of it. Also because of that horrid test where they blow air onto your eyeball.

Me too. x

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