April 6th 1972

“New set Batts. 31 days. 18p” / “opticians 2:40 – Hardly any change in eyes”

The battery thing continues.

The second part of the entry is something I wish I would hear these days!

I was first prescribed with specs at seven years old. That’s tough for a young kid, to be the subject of ridicule (as was the case) from such an early age. I did try and mitigate the ‘bullying’ at junior school by becoming a bit of a ‘class clown’ with my glasses, which were those awful John Lennon-esque National Health specials. The early editions of these had what amounted to spring-loaded earpieces. I discovered that by slowly easing one arm up off an ear, the specs could fly around/across my face and whizz through the air before falling to earth. Good for creating a few laughs, but BAD for the ‘health’ of the glasses themselves. I really don’t know how many pairs I went through before giving up the ‘habit’.

But my early trips to the optician has made the profession, like dentists, one which I genuinely despise and fear.

My phobia was enhanced considerably later in my teenage years when my regular optician from childhood asked if I would be interested in trying contact lenses. To determine if I was “lens” material he took me into a back room of his surgery and told me to lean my head back and open my eyes, whereupon he popped in a couple of dummy lenses. He then told me he would leave them with me for a few minutes and… just left the room.

I was immediately aware that I couldn’t deal with them, the feeling of them in my eyes nothing short of awful, the ‘ridge’ of the lens causing havoc with my eyelid. The optician had left the room WITHOUT telling me any advice on how to get the lenses out, so I sat there, sweating like I was in a tropical jungle, for over 20 minutes, just TERRIFIED.

When he came back in, I swore at him, telling him to get these *ahem* ‘things’ out of my eyes, calling him names all the while. I told him that I would NEVER come back into his surgery because of what he did, and I never did. Even now as a more rational 50-year old just walking past the store in Eastleigh gives me the shakes as I all-too-clearly recall that horrible afternoon.

It made me even more phobic of having anyone – other then me – mess with my eyes. For instance, I’ve never had that “pressure check” on the eyeball test, always having to settle for the air puffer equivalent… and I even have problems with that!

It’s a wonder I’m not on some kind of opticians ‘list’. My most embarrassing moment came in my 20’s and the yearly check at Southampton Eye Hospital which, in those days, was a dark, dank Victorian hellhole of a facility. You waited to be seen on one of a few large lines of chairs which faced three-walled cubicles. Curtained from one another, but always visible to the people waiting.

So, I had to sit and wait, watching people having their eyes tested, all the time being forced to poke their head into the “just put your chin here” framework contraption. Talk about building fear of the inevitable?!

When it was my turn on this particular occasion, I appeared to forget the other members of the public who were then watching me. I began remonstrating loudly with the opthalmist, refusing to do the aforementioned pressure check thing. He attempted to persevere, trying to fool me at one point by moving the machinery close to one eyeball.

Now, I am NOT a violent person by any means, but I jumped back in the chair, stood up and raised my fist in a movement that suggested I would punch him the hell out if he tried that again. He never did. I never went back to that eye hospital again, but for a few moments I became a circus act to the waiting patients.

I can’t even watch people messing with their eyes. A friend once tried putting her contacts in whilst I was driving, and I nearly went off the road with horror at the thought of what she was doing. My wife knows to deal with here contact lenses as far away as possible from me, and I’ve never seen ‘those eye scenes’ in Terminator or even (one of my favourite movies) Clockwork Orange.

It’s often been difficult being ‘me’

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