Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Frackin' Contacts

Let's be honest. No one likes a four-eyes. Oh, we can be civil when they're around, praising they're smarts and assuring them they have a winning personality. But as soon as their backs are turned we snicker like there's no tomorrow, ensuring they will always be one step down on the social ladder, even though, by all accounts, people who wear glasses are smarter, more successful economically and they live longer as a result of less socializing, ie; less boozing, less exposure to sun; less exposure to drunk drivers.

So, about a year ago, when I lost my job, I found my mini-mid-life crisis. I started growing my hair longer. I wore cooler clothes. And I finally shed my glasses in favor of contacts. I was a new man. Heck, the new me even got the old me's job back. Life was good.

It wasn't my first attempt at contacts. That was a hatchet job some years earlier that went so horribly wrong I felt doomed to a lifetime of servitude meant only for those so undeserving of what little they may have already achieved, they were destined to a lifetime of disappointments.

Case in point.

I decided to train to be an airline pilot. Shortly thereafter terrorists attacked the United States using airplanes, bankrupting the airlines and setting my career path off track. Several years passed and I finally made it to the lowly rung of commuter airline pilot. I paid my dues, sleeping on couches or lounge chairs in airport basements, rarely making it home, only to be too tired to enjoy my brief days off before having to rush off to work again. Bases closed and opened up closer to home. Before long, I was within driving distance. I had gained seniority. I was ready to upgrade to Captain and enjoy a lovely pay raise. And then, I got fired for going to a fracking job fair.

I crawled back to the old flight school, which offered me a job. I gave up my shiny new jet for a beat up prop plane, flying to the islands and occasionally instructing. I was home for dinner every night. I slept in my own bed every night. My commute was a ten minute drive. I made good money. And then, I got an offer to fly an even shinier, even newer, even bigger jet, just down the street for even more money. I took it.

And less than a year later, oil hit a $147 a barrel. Everyone panicked. I was laid off. I grew my hair and shed my glasses.

Now, if you've never worn contacts, they're supposed to adhere to the cornea, suctioned in place by the natural moisture of the eyes. I was, to say the least, apprehensive about trying this. The first time you try them, your eyes are dialated, making everything a blur that can leave some people feeling a bit woozy and nauseated. I only got one in before deciding it wasn't for me but the mean lady at the eye doctor's office started yelling at me. I mean she was nasty, berating me for not giving it enough time to work. I had to be patient, she shouted. STOP WASTING HER TIME.

Lord knows what made me try it again, other than the lack of anything good in my life at that time. But low and behold, a gentle, reassuring attitude and a bit of patience from the staff at the new doctor's office got me through it and I was glasses free. It was time to let the world see me without stigma.

The benefits of contacts are enormous. You can wear them in the shower. You can wear them swimming and see the pretty people on the beach. You can wear them during sex. Yes, life is good.

But there is a downside. Varying degrees of eyesight are assigned numbers. They make contacts to correspond to certain numbers. But it turns out, my right eye falls between the numbers they make. Sometimes my right eye is blurry. Also, because the contacts are soft, they are flexible. They can fold up and when they do, it's hard to know which side is which. Wear them backwards and it's unpleasant, but at least you know straightaway and can turn them over.

Because of their flexibility, contact lenses can have a habit of moving around on the eye. Now, I've become far more comfortable touching my eyeball than I ever thought possible. The eye can take quite a bit and I'm no longer squeamish, but there is another problem that still nauseates me.

Sometimes, if the contact doesn't adhere to my eyeball just right, it feels like its loose, or folding up, or floating around. I rub and I rub, trying to make it seal. I use drops and take it out, putting it back in to get it right. And sometimes, after all that, the lens can disappear.

Because my right eye is sometimes blurry, I don't always notice it's missing its lens, but something feels wrong. There is an irritation I can't pin down. And then, I realize what it is. My contact has folded up and gotten sucked inside my eye socket, out of sight behind my eyeball.

I jest not. This just happened. It's happened before, once in a cockpit. Not a good place to be digging around inside one's eye. Fortunately today it happened at home, but for goodness sakes, I couldn't locate the thing. Usually, and it's only happened a couple of times, it slides off to the side, folded over, poking out the corner of my eye. Not today. I pulled back my lids and examined best I could through my blurry vision. Nothing. I couldn't have dropped it. I could feel it evading me.

Finally, I spotted it on top of my eyeball, out of reach, behind my lid. I couldn't pull it out, it was too far in. There was nothing to grab. I wasn't even certain I was really seeing it. I couldn't live with it there forever. My stomach was churning. I felt the bile rise in my throat. I began to sweat and my knees went weak. I only had the strength for one try.

With trembling hands, I unscrewed the top to the eye drops. With bent knees, I tilted my head back, stretching my eyelid to the limits of elasticity, flooding my socket with as much light as I could. The dropper hovered over my eye, and I summoned the strength to squeeze. One. Two. Three drops.

My eye red from irritation, I blinked away the drops, and the elusive contact lens was flushed free. I popped it back in, and it worked fine.

Still, I sometimes long for the ease of spectacles. Take 'em off. Put 'em on. Pretty simple. Until you realize their cost. I'd rather look good than feel good. But I think I'll take the rest of the week off.

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