Social Contacts

I wear contact lenses, largely due to the nature of my work.  They are, at times, a total pain, but they do come along with a number of distinct advantages over glasses.  They mean that I can hold my head up in society at large: when it rains, I can walk without staring down at my feet in order to keep the rain off my spectacle lenses.  I can enter a building without steaming up.  I can play sport; I can play with my grandkids without having to constantly reach for the superglue.  When I emerge from the horror of the Public Swimming Baths changing rooms, I can see more than a Technicolor swirl of unidentified flesh and ill-advised costume.  I do not need my family to come and find me and lead me, like some grotesque bespectacled walrus, towards the chlorine/urine cocktail of the pool.  I even swim in my contacts.  I know that I shouldn’t, but it does mean that I do not spend my whole time in the water apologising for swimming into people.

Lenses are not without drawbacks: especially after a long night, when I can’t get them in, or after a long day, when I can’t get them out, but the modern soft toric lenses do not come close to the tiny slivers of glass I used to insert into my eyes in days of yore.  Each pair lasted a year, so losing one on the bus was a nightmare – but not as much as losing one in your own eye.  The increasingly desperate attempts to locate, and subsequently extract, the errant lens often left one eye looking like, as my friend described it, a bulldog’s bollock (or bullock as my spellcheck is desperate to persuade me).  From that I could only assume that he had some intimate knowledge of the aforementioned canine’s testes, and that they were, indeed, red, swollen and angry-looking.  I never asked.  Stray over your maximum twelve hours of wear in those miniscule head-lamps and you felt like someone had sandpapered your eyeball.  Whatever vision remained was shrouded in the kind of fog that would have stopped the London buses.

I have spent my whole life battling with the right/left conundrum: never quite certain of which is which.  Consequently, my morning contact lens routine can be a little fraught.  For a start, my lenses may not be in the correct sides of the case from the evening before.  If they are, they may not go into the correct eye in the morning.  (One of the rare occasions where two wrongs really do make a right.)  For thirty years or more I have tried to help myself by singing my own version of the bloody awful ‘(B)right eye(s)’every time I remove/insert what just might, possibly, be the right contact lens.  It serves no-one – least of all Art Garfunkel – well.

These days, as my vision, like my common sense, fades into oblivion, I wear varifocal glasses when I do not have lenses in.  These little miracles mean that I can see the world in general with a certain clarity whilst still being able to read books, signs and mobile phones, without having to have a second pair of specs suspended around my neck on a spangly little chain.  The great skill being in locating the sweet spot on the lens that allows me to see in close enough detail to do things without rendering myself blind to the on-coming lorry.

The somewhat unique shape of my eyeballs, following a pre-full face helmet motorbike accident in my feckless youth, means that I cannot wear varifocal contact lenses – please don’t ask why, I don’t know – so I have, in one eye a lens that allows me to read and, in the other, a lens that allows me to see.  My brain, apparently, sorts it all out.  I don’t know how when it constantly loses track of the plot in Vera.  Until the point of that particular teenage impact my vision was fine – although not good enough, you might quite fairly point out, to see the tree – and I found out that I would need to wear glasses after leaving hospital.  I remember, so vividly, wearing them for the first time and realising that trees still had leaves, but being incredibly confused by the fact that they all appeared to be falling over.  It would have been very useful if the tree I had hit on my bike had done so.  I like to think that the slight asymmetry I now have makes my face more interesting, although, in honesty, I think that lop-sided is probably nearer the truth.

Possibly because of that, I have grown to like the look of my face better in lenses than in glasses which never quite seem to be on straight, but I’m guessing it’s only because I can’t see it as well.  Although, rather like a woman with a bra, my lenses are the first thing I want to get out of when I get home in the evening.  They become more uncomfortable as the day drags on; they seem to serve less purpose as soon as I get behind my own front door; it feels good to let my eyeballs resume their normal shape and to give them a little air at the end of the day.

Now, during the course of my daily toils I currently wear a mask all day and I spend that time with people who are also wearing masks, and more often than not, the eyes alone do not give me nearly enough information for the rest of me to have the faintest idea of who I am talking to*.  My facial recognition is notoriously bad, but robbed of three-quarters of the relevant information, it just gives up and goes home and, in this respect, unusual spectacles are a godsend.  The more Elton John, the better.  (I’ll be honest here, E.J. wasn’t the first person that popped into my head, but I thought that there was a better chance of my international readers knowing who Elton was, rather than Timmy Mallett.)  In these days of severely limited contact and muffled voices hidden away amongst lips and nostrils, these tiny plastic windows on the world are often all I have to go on when I try to identify a face that I vaguely recollect. If it is you, and if you decide by any chance that you too want to be able to see in the rain, I, for one, will no longer have any idea of who you are…

*…to whom I am talking.  For Mr Wells-Cole, to prove that I did, indeed, learn something at school

26 thoughts on “Social Contacts

  1. I’m very sorry to hear about the accident, sounds nasty. You’ve got to watch out for trees, they jump.
    I remember the horrors of losing a contact lens in your eye, that feeling you might lose it all the way round the back or permanently embed it into the soft white of your eyeball. Then I got them to burn my eyes with a light saber (something like that anyway) and I could see perfectly for many years! And now my eyes are buggered again and I’m trying to figure out glasses, and finding they don’t work well with masks and ear defenders and a wooly hat. I’m quite happy to be the guinea pig for cyborg eyes. And teeth.

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    1. The accident was a very long time ago. It taught me much about death – I didn’t want it – it taught me much about my reliability aboard motorcycles and it taught me a bit about me – although I appear to have forgotten it all now. My current dentist appointment is next week. I will ask about cyborg teeth although, to be truthful, all I really need are some that are harder than the food I eat. Keep well in your mask and ear defenders. Watch out for idiots on motorbikes.

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      1. Best to forget things you learn about death, I find. They aren’t helpful.
        Good luck with the dentist. It will be fine. I expect he will install the cyborg teeth anyway. Imagine what the tooth fairy will look like!

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      2. Oh Lord. I now have an image of Arnie rifling under my pillow and I don’t think I will ever sleep again.
        You are most definitely right about death. A bridge to cross when you get there…

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      3. I don’t mind death, he was funny in that film with David Jason (attempting to remember the name and having to look it up, found it and it’s called The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett. Ian Richardson played the part of death. Of course, perhaps due to my work with those at the end of their lives, I also have to just accept it as part of my everyday and hope I make the time anyone has left the best possible I have any say in. I did like the way Byron Katie talks about death. Oh and of course loved watching Beetlejuice, for that’s just bloody hilarious, attempting to exorcise the living LOL.

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  2. I went to get my eyes tested and told the optician that I couldn’t see very far. He took me outside, pointed towards the sky and said “What is that?” I said, “the Sun”. He replied, “How far do you want to see?” Drum roll for tired old gag…

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    1. Really? What made you stop? Glasses are definitely more restful for the eyes, but an encumbrance in just about every other way. My eyesight is bad and I still love the freedom of being able to see in the rain. Whenever the grandkids see me wearing specs they tell me to take them off – although that is generally because they want to mould my face, which they think is very funny…

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      1. I took the contact out of my right eye early June 2003 and it ripped my cornea. I had triple vision for almost a year. I would like to try them again but bifocal contacts are expensive.

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      2. Ouch! I hope it’s ok now. Yes. I don’t have bifocal contacts, and I’m not sure that what works for me would work for everyone. Do you have an optician that would let you try? They’re very good at that here. They bung a pair of lenses in your eyes, wait for them to water beyond sight, and kick you out into the wide world saying ‘come back in an hour, if you can find us’ and confiscating your glasses. Most people have contacts on a regular order, so it works for the optician to let you try. I am now going to the bathroom to remove my lens with great trepidation…

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      3. Feeling a little queasy now, thanks for that. No idea who likes the idea of having sommat stuck on an eyeball! {{{{shudder}}}} Not sure I could go through with having lazer either. Apparently it only sound horrible, but it’s all a matter of preference or is that perception? We’re just so ruddy fortunate to have the ability to fund anything that helps us see, for in other parts of the world they don’t all have that. I feel so privaliaged (can not spell that) for I have no serious ailments, no, cannot think of anything, so I sarpose you can all be gelious now (can’t spell that or that either). 😀

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      1. She said this new prescrition was like someone had washed the window pane that you used to look out every day and didn’t realize it was that dirty.

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  3. There was a time, when I would do anything to get prescription glasses, so that I would look older…I was always 5 years behind my age, facially and mentally. Now, I would do anything to get rid of the glasses, so that I would look younger… Ahh life!

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    1. I would say that was and still is peer pressure (someone please say I spelt that right this time). Don’t accept it, be amazing as the person you are and at the age you are.

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      1. What is it with the pressure to all be a set age, the age of pregnancy or testosterone filled rage. Oh the beauty of the innocent age and then the latter just as innocent peace (if you’ve played your cards right and ethically during the middle part).

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