Friday, June 21, 2013

I See (If I Squint Hard Enough)

I'm getting older. We all are. (Yes, even you.) It's inevitable. It's like the song says, "You're older than you've ever been. And now, you're even older. And now, you're even older. And now, you're older still." ("Older" by They Might Be Giants.)

The saying goes that you are as young as you feel. That's great, but there are certain old age checkpoints that we all eventually pass. I recently reached a big one. What are some of these checkpoints? Here are a few:

*You find yourself complaining about "those kids today and their music."  (Bieber? Really??? BIEBER!!!???) [CHECK.]

*You have lived through at least three changes in music-listening formats. (For me, 8-track to cassette to CD to MP3 to...cell phones or The Cloud or Pandora or however the heck these kids today are listening to their Bieber.) [CHECK.]

*Television shows that began airing after you graduated from high school are now airing as reruns on Nick At Nite, and have been for several years. (Full House, Doogie Howser, Friends.) [CHECK.]

*You are told you have to wear bifocals. [CHECK.]

New bifocals for an old man

Yes, a couple of weeks ago I made the switch from regular glasses to bifocals. What's scary about that is I used to be the one in the family with good eyesight.

My brother and my sister were both pretty impaired without their glasses from a very early age. I didn't get my first pair of glasses until I was in high school, and even then I only wore them part of the time (to see things far away and to watch television.)

In fact, I made it all the way into my mid-40s before I needed my glasses to pass the eye test for my driver's license renewal. Even though I've always worn my glasses when I drive, I didn't want it put on my driver's license that I had to wear my glasses while driving. It was a point of pride that I could legally still drive without them.

So, every time I went in to renew my license I'd spend an hour or two without my glasses on, to acclimate my eyes. Then I'd walk in, put my face in their eye-testing machine, and play a nice little game of "Squint and Guess." I'm telling you, I could squint with the best of them! (Clint Eastwood's got nothing on me!) And I've always been good at guessing multiple choice answers. Once I'd squint that letter down to where I knew it was either an "R" or a "K," my guessing prowess would take over. And I would ace it every time!

Yes, I was the king of "Squint and Guess." Until four years ago. That's when old age started to catch up to me. I put my face in the eye-testing machine and I squinted, and I squinted, and I squinted until it felt like my eyeballs were going to pop out the side of my ears. And then I guessed. And I guessed wrong.

The test administrator gave me a look of disapproval and asked if I had any glasses. (He asked it in a tone that said, "For your sake I hope you have glasses, 'cause you ain't even close.") (I don't think it was his first time thwarting someone at the game of "Squint and Guess.")

So, I pulled my glasses out of my pocket, put them on,! It was amazing how much easier it was to read all those letters without having to squint so much!

That was four years ago. In the interim, my eyesight has gotten worse.

So now, I have bifocals. Because my eyesight is bad two ways. The idea behind bifocals is that the top two-thirds of the glasses have a subscription prescription that helps you see things that are far away, while the bottom third has a subscription prescription that helps you read things that are close.

It used to be that bifocals had a very distinct line in them where anyone could tell where the see-things-far-away part ended and the read-things-that-are-close part starts. Well, not anymore! The bifocals that "these kids today" (Hey! That's me!) are wearing have no discernible line between the sections of the two different subscriptions prescriptions. They do this because bifocal wearers don't want people to think they are old because they have to wear bifocals.

I've been wearing my bifocals for three or four weeks now, and I'm still not used to them. Sometimes I wish they did have a line so I could tell if I was looking out the far-away or the up-close sections.

One of the biggest problems I have with the bifocals is when I'm trying to look down to see things that are far away. Usually, things that are far away are things that you have to look up or look out for. It's very rare that someone has to look down at things that are far away. Unless, say, there happens to be a big, long flight of stairs that you have to walk down several times a day.

Yes, at my work there is a long, dark stairway that I have to go up and down 10 to 12 times a day. I have no problems going up the stairs with my bifocals. But, it's a bit different when I try to go down the stairs.

What I should see is this:


What I actually see out of the lower part of my bifocals is more like this:

Stairs! (As seen through bifocals.)

But that's not all. I also have problems reading. The bifocals were especially supposed to help with reading, and they do...most of the time. If I'm sitting at a desk or in a chair and reading, they help just fine. 

For Father's Day, The Wife got me a book titled Dad Is Fat. (She swears it's not a statement about my weight.)  (It's actually a very funny book by comedian Jim Gaffigan.) So, the other day I took my new book (and my new bifocals) to a place where a lot of people do a lot of reading. (No, not the toilet.) I took my new book to bed, where I hoped to get a good bit of reading done. 

Well, once I got myself propped up on my pillow, I attempted to read. But, I was having a hard time finding the right spot in the bifocals to read through. I tilted my head back. That didn't help. I tilted my head forward. That didn't help. I slid my glasses to the end of my nose. That didn't help. I tilted my head to the side. That really didn't help.

And then, I took my glasses off. And that did help! Sure, I had to squint a little bit. And guess what the words were every so often. But hey, I always have been pretty good at "Squint and Guess!"

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