Smith: 3, 2, 1 … contacts |

Smith: 3, 2, 1 … contacts

Barry Smith

In my years of contact-lens wearing, I’ve:

• Lost them when it seemed impossible to do so.

• Found them when it seemed impossible to do so.

• Put in someone else’s contacts by mistake.

• Put in someone else’s contacts on purpose.

• Cleaned my contacts with spit. Mine and someone else’s. By mistake and on purpose.

• Put them in the wrong eyes.

• Put them both in the same eye.

• Put something in my eye that, upon closer inspection, wasn’t a contact lens at all.

For nearly 40 years, I’ve needed something in front of — or in — my eyes in order to see. And now my vision journey is about to take an exciting (“predictable”) new turn, and I am so excited (“not”) to share it with you.

But first:

Way back in the old days, when our fifth-grade glass would get unruly, Ms. Cunningham liked to snap her fingers and say, “Look at me, everybody. I want to see the color of your eyes.” Now, I knew that she was joking, that this was just a frustrated teacher’s exaggeration because you can’t actually see someone’s eye color from that far away. Crazy Ms. Cunningham, with her whimsical idioms and her blurry chalkboard writings.

Saturday mornings were particularly brutal and always the same — a few hours squinting at cartoons followed by a few more hours back in bed with a migraine. Still, a Scooby-Doo binge always seemed worth it.

I suppose the inevitable eye test was a traumatic experience, as I have absolutely no memory of it. I suspect it went something along these lines:

Doctor: “Can you read that top line for me?”

Me: “Well, let’s see — blob, squiggle, smudge, smear and stain.”

The ride home from the eye doctor with my first pair of glasses was like discovering a new world. Wow! Trees are not nebulous green edgeless masses but in fact have individual leaves! Stop signs are called such because they have the word “stop” written on them! That first Saturday with my new glasses was also quite a revelation. No headache! Shaggy has a beard! Scooby-Doo is a dog! And Daphne is — wow! Just wow. Seeing is so cool.

Sixth and seventh grade found me with some particularly awesome frames, some so bad that no amount of irony would allow them to be worn today. Glasses, however, did not mix well with my enthusiasm for basketball. And yes, I like to describe being hit in the face with the ball on a regular basis as “enthusiasm.” Each face-catch stretched the hinges out a little bit more until eventually the ear pieces were splayed out and practically flat. I’d repair this by folding up pieces of paper and wedging them in the hinge. These bits of paper would get a little bigger each time I played basketball until I was basically stuffing an entire sheet of paper (legal size) in each hinge. In retrospect, I think it’s fair to say that I had a “look.”

Toward the end of seventh grade, I got contacts, which were pretty expensive, but they made good financial sense when you consider my mounting paper costs. In those days, contacts were literally pieces of glass that you put in your eye. You spend your whole life trying to avoid touching your eyeball (except when trying to gross out girls), and suddenly you’re required to do it at least twice a day. By my estimation, I have now touched my eyeball 22,000 times. (Note: That calculation is for one eye only. Multiply that number by two to include both eyes. Show your work in the margin.) This number takes into account the fact that you didn’t actually have to put your finger in your eye to remove the old glass contacts. You just pull the corner of your eye back to make it squinty, blink, and the incredibly costly lens comes flying out into your awaiting cupped hand. Or the floor. Or any open drain that’s nearby.

Then came the semi-hard contacts, then soft, then water soluble, then micro-thin, then weeblefester, then disposable. I’ve had them all.

And now I’m here, contacts in place, having an increasingly difficult time reading these words that I’m typing. I can’t seem to move my face close enough, or far enough away, for them to really come into focus. I might have just accidentally written the word “weeblefester” but have no way of knowing for sure.

It’s time, folks. It’s time.

I suspect my return home from the drugstore with my first pair of reading glasses will be reminiscent of that trip home from the eye doctor all those years ago.

Words! Words have individual letters! Wow! Seeing is so cool.

Barry Smith’s column appears Mondays.

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