For some reason, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my first pair of glasses. I think it may be because Baxt and I had a conversation not that long ago about glasses, and perhaps because my current glasses (acquired last year, as some may recall), may be due for a new prescription. I’ve noticed that I start thinking about glasses a lot when I start to have trouble seeing things I used to be able to see, perhaps as a subtle nudge from my subconscious. The decline is so gradual, however, that it’s hard to tell if my vision is always like this, or if it really is getting bad enough to require a new prescription.
But I digress.
Like most people who wear glasses, I remember my first pair of glasses very distinctly. Actually, I first got contacts, and switched to glasses in 2000, when I attended the Democratic National Convention and was afraid of getting peppersprayed in the eyes. I had worn glasses periodically before 2000, usually at night after I took my contacts out and on days of periodic contact shortage, and while I had intended to go back to contacts after the convention, glasses somehow became part of my identity, and I haven’t gone back since.
At any rate, and I really am starting to ramble here, I went to Ukiah for my contacts, and I remember missing a day of school to go over the hill with my father. I’m not quite sure why we went to Ukiah; it must have been cheaper to see an eye doctor over there or something. I got the full battery of basic tests which are familiar to the glasses-wearing among my readers, and then the doctor showed me how to clean my contacts, and then how to put them in.
For someone who doesn’t wear glasses, it’s kind of hard to describe your first experience of corrected vision. Imagine moving through an underwater world for most of your life, a world in which things are murky, blurred, and sometimes dangerous. It’s a world where you feel three steps behind everyone else, where you know something is off, but you don’t quite know what.
And then, suddenly, everything just snaps into focus, and it’s an epiphany. My first words, on glancing out the window, were “trees have leaves!” The doctor must have tested my vision again after that, and checked to make sure that the contacts fit, but I don’t really remember that. What I remember is driving over the hill with my face glued to the window, looking at the whole world which had suddenly opened up before me. That blurry green mass by the side of the road had turned into individual blades of grass, needles on pine trees, quivering leaves of alders. I could see veins of quartz in the rocks, the crisp edges of clouds wafting across the sky.
It was one of the top ten most exciting experiences of my entire life. You see, with most of us, our vision declines so slowly that we don’t really realize what is happening. We get the sense that we used to see better once, but it seems like we have always seen that way. To awaken and suddenly realize that in fact your eyes are totally defective, but completely correctable, is quite a heady experience.
A few years ago, I went on a trip to Hawaii, and I intended to do some snorkeling, but made the stupid mistake of not renting a prescription snorkle mask. I think I didn’t realize how bad my vision is without glasses, so I thought I would be able to tough it out, and cheerfully dove into the water, only to realize that I was totally disoriented. I had no idea what I was seeing, which way was up, and what was going on. I collided with coral, rocks, and my unfortunate co-snorkeling aunt. I saw vague flashes of color which might have been fish, but I was too busy trying to figure out what was going on.
I spent the rest of the trip on the beach reading a book.
Those of you who wear glasses: what do you remember about your first day with corrected vision?