The fact that, upon receipt of a new pair, my spectacles actually make things less blurry rather than more so, is a constant source of wonder and amazement. This is almost certainly due to the fact that in all my engagements with, what I call, The Dark Arts of Optometry I feel I am being led by a suggestibility which does not manifest itself in any other situation.
A less suggestible person would be capable of uttering sentences such as “No, they all appear the same no matter which way round you turn the lens or tweak the dial on the contraption hooked onto my face” or “Well, the red looks clearer when I look at the red and the green looks clearer when I look at the green.” Yet there I find myself in a state of bewilderment, second guessing their “1…or 2?” and wondering what they really mean by “better” or “clearer” and debating whether I should recite the lowest line I can see easily or the one I can see by squinting and guessing.
In whatever mystical establishments they choose to train – I don’t know about you but I certainly have never walked past a school of optometry on my travels, no doubt they are accessible solely via some portal invisible to the uninitiated – I can only assume they spend more time cultivating the arts of psychology and cold reading than they do on learning to gauge our visual acuity.
The human placebo that is the charlatan is fully embodied in the modern day optician. My story of how clear or blurry things appear through the various lenses is the only information of consequence when it comes to making up the string of positive and negative decimals that forms my “prescription.” While at the same time, I can’t help feeling that all I’ve done is give them the answers they wanted to hear in the first place. The fact that my glasses make me see better must then either be an act of deception by my own willing mind or an act of divination by theirs.
The only thing that made the whole affair seem less phenomenal was the spectacle of an ageing Irish man sticking his head through the front door and asking “Where’s the opticians?” Upon being told by virtually everyone present “You’re in it” he replied “Oh looks like I need to buy some glasses” and toddled off. Oh ho ho, he was about as funny as the best of his fellow country men and I have no doubt judging by the communal response and lack of surprise that this is at least a weekly occurrence. It is no coincidence I’m sure that he was toddling off in the direction of the local branch of a famous pub chain which flings open its welcoming doors before most of us have brushed our teeth.
Although I did not require it this time, further dark arts were evident in my previous experience of choosing frames. I spent at least 45 minutes poring through the stacks, laboriously trying on each pair and deciding “no, oh god no!” When I finally caved and accepted an offer of help, this fiend took a look at my face for but a few moments and then, without even turning away to contemplate, laid her hands on two pairs of frames which suited me just fine, and probably hadn’t been there before although I could not confidently say so. Had this been a medieval vignette she would have been hauled away to the ducking stool before I’d had the opportunity to attempt to decline the offer of optional lens coatings at an additional cost (try it, you physically can’t say no).
So it is with an air of trepidation and delight that I await my new improved vision. It will be here next week and you pedestrians shall be all the safer for it.