The Rorschach Test for the Legally Blind

In January, I ordered a new pair of glasses. My vision had changed slightly; it had gone from ridiculously myopic to “worse.” For me, glasses are always an expensive, time-consuming investment. First of all, I’m an optometrist’s worst nightmare. I refuse the “eye puffer test” every visit. Sometimes the optometric assistants try to coax me into taking it. “No way,” I’ll say. “I can’t handle the suspense. I’ll yell.” This is no joke. I haven’t taken the “puffer test” since I was a little kid when I’d been tricked into taking it by an assistant who flat-out lied to me: “Don’t worry, Abby. This is not the eye puffer test.” When the air shot out of the machine, I screamed.

Second, I feel the Snellen chart (the chart with the large “E”) is rigged. The typography is seriffed. Outside of the eye doctor’s office, I’ve never seen a capital “E” in that font. It’s dangerously similar to a winged digital “B.” Without some sort of corrective device in front of my eyes, the “E” (winged digital “B”) might as well be a giant inkblot. The Rorschach test for the legally blind. And you can forget about the rest of the letters. When the doctor asks me to start reading aloud, I do one of two things: I either prattle off a series of letters plucked at random from the steaming bowl of alphabet soup in my head, or I’ll mumble, feigning sincere effort, in a slow, deliberate voice: “O-S-C-A-R-M-E-Y-E-R.”

Then there’s the actual prescription test. Ok, I’ve got to admit that, for a long time, I couldn’t pay attention to much of anything other than the doctor saying, “One?” Wait a minute. Make sure to focus on the big “E.” “Or two?” Blink, blink. Again: “One?” Slight pause. Focus. “Or two?” His voice was so tranquil. Like a soft wave crashing on the shore. A wave I couldn’t see. He had to repeat the tests several times because I’d relax into a state of near-hypnosis, slack-jawed, leaning my entire body weight onto the Tron-esque phoropter machine. He should’ve been more militant when presenting my choices: “One or two? I’m not going to ask you again, little four-eyed pipsqueak! Do you want the goddamn puffer test?”

Earlier this year, I bought new specs with transitional lenses. I do not like them. Here’s why: they take over 10 minutes to transition when I go from outside to inside. The change in light exposure throws me for a loop. Nine minutes indoors and my lenses are still shaded. I bear a striking resemblance to Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s life coach.

I’ve worn glasses for 27 years. I consider them to be an extension of my face. But you know what would be really cool? Transitional dentures.

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