An unfocused look at optometry

slider2Optometry is one of those professions where I think, “Hey, I could do do that.” It doesn’t seem that complicated. With some basic equipment and an instructive YouTube video, I’m sure I could manage it.

After all, the equipment is doing most of the work. The optometrist is merely taking the readings. There is that eyeball-gazing wand, but its sole purpose seems to be to blind the patient just before he has to read some faraway letters, so it may exist more for kicks than anything else.

Plus, if it turns out there is something seriously wrong with your eyes, the optometrist refers you to an ophthalmologist. If you need glasses, he’ll refer you to an optician. It’s classic middle management, except with eye drops.

Undoubtedly optometry is more complex than this, and I’m sure I will soon be receiving angry letters explaining how. If I do get letters, though, I sincerely hope they tell me my arguments are shortsighted and lack clarity.

Ignorance notwithstanding, the big reason I question optometry is because it seems heavily dependent on guesswork. And guesswork not by the optometrist, who has at least watched the video, but by the patient. Speaking as one of those patients, I can assure you that this is not a reliable method.

“Are the letters clearer with this lens? Or this lens? This one…? Or this one…?”


This is how my eyeglass prescription is determined: by my vague sense that one lens kind of looks clearer and the letters are sort of easier to read. All the while, my answers are tainted by the anxiety that I’m going to flunk the test.

But of course there is no wrong answer. These are my eyes, after all. This is what I see. At least, that’s what I told myself last week as I sat in the chair with my face in the giant torture goggles.

“This one…?” asked the doctor. “Or this one?”

“Ummm, the first one,” I said.

“Really?” the doctor replied.


So apparently there is a wrong answer.

“I mean, yeah, the second one…”

And that’s how I got my new prescription.

After the exam, the doctor and I discussed the arguments for regular lenses versus progressives. When I learned that it was $200 versus $500, the argument was quickly settled that I would continue taking off my glasses to read.

Next, I was sent out front to pick some new frames, which seems a bit of a racket. But I was willing to overlook this fact because my current frames are being held together with electrical tape.

Picking frames is tough, knowing you’ll be stuck with this look for the next two to five years. Nonetheless, I began the elimination process by deciding against the cheaper frames that were out of style and opting for the more expensive frames that will be out of style in six months.

I narrowed it down to two.

“This one…? Or this one…?”

It was the end of the day and the office was quiet, so three employees were happy to help me out, and by “help me out,” I mean tell me how good I looked. I can assure you that having three women simultaneously say I look good has never happened before in my life and is unlikely to happen again, so you’ll forgive me for savouring the moment.

“I’m sure whichever frames you pick, your wife will find you very handsome,” said one of the clerks.

Naturally, I didn’t want to leave.

But it was closing time, so I made my selection (the cheaper frames, of course) and left the frames behind to be readied with my prescription. First, though, I took a selfie on my phone, which for me is as uncomfortable and unnatural as that puff of air in the eyeball. And the expression kind of looks the same.

I came home and showed my wife my phone. “What do you think?” I asked.

She paused. She continued pausing. The pause was going on far too long.

Finally she said, “Why do you look so angry?”

I’m not angry, I said, and then I explained how hard it is to take a selfie. But the frames, I asked, what did she think of the frames?

“They’re awfully big,” she said.

You lied to me, three women. You lied! I knew it was a racket!

But then, coming from the optometrist, I should have guessed.


About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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29 Responses to An unfocused look at optometry

  1. At least you can find frames that don’t have sparkly crystals on them or that aren’t purple, which make the grown technicians squeal “oh they’re so cute on you!” At which point, I take them off, glare vaguely in the direction of the irritating tech, trip over the chair, stumble toward the desk, pick up my old glasses and mutter something about waiting until next year as I make my way to the door.

  2. ksbeth says:

    yes, after about 3 levels of ‘guessing’ which view is clearer, i just start to answer randomly, like guessing the answers on a multiple choice test when you have no idea what the right answer is.

  3. pinklightsabre says:

    The puff in the eye, the selfie wince, that’s good. I recall being literal-minded in my 20s and having those tests done and not understanding how to be comfortable giving ambiguous answers, something I still haven’t learned. I mean, it should really matter shouldn’t it? How do they ask the same questions and do the same thing like that day-in, day-out?

  4. What, no photo? I wanna see the eyeball puff look! You should just do what my husband does for glasses, he steals mine.

  5. List of X says:

    I think the chances of being told that you look handsome in specific glasses increase exponentially the closer current time gets to the end of the work day.
    As for “looking angry”, maybe you’re just drinking too much coffee. I’m guessing this could be the case because whenever I see your picture online you’re drinking from a coffee mug.

  6. franhunne4u says:

    This blog post is a little fuzzy. Not quite clear what the writer wants for an answer. But maybe that is because the future with new glasses is too distant? Or do I see it all in too negative a light?

  7. gavinkeenan says:

    Too bad your wife wasn’t with you, things might have looked different. Sounds like the three woman of the optometrist pulled the wool over your eyes.

  8. byebyebeer says:

    You’re worth the progressives…speaking as a woman whose husband declined to get them and is still regretting it a year later. Warby Parker has good prices and sends you frames to try on in the mail. It’s all a racket though.

  9. calahan says:

    My eyes are just as bad, man. I sympathize and laugh knowingly at the same time.
    What glasses did you end up getting? Show me, show me! Tease.

  10. (wakes up, looks at election results)

    Make up the spare room, I’m coming over.

Go ahead, don't be shy.

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