Wednesday, January 23, 2019

"My Worst Thing"

I would entitle it “My Worst Nightmare”, but that feels like “pushing it.”

My worst thing is seeing.

My mother contracted Rubella (German measles) when she was pregnant with me and the prenatal consequence was… I am “blanking” because it’s big… oh yeah, cataracts.

I had multiple eye surgeries when I was two.  I’ve been told they did a very good job, for 1947.  My right eye, with corrective lenses, sees fine.  My left eye, as I described in a monologue delivered at college, thinks it’s an ear.

From earliest childhood, I wore thick bifocals.  Nobody teased me.  Some called me “Professor”, but nothing traumatic.  Maybe they liked me.  Or maybe it was too serious to joke about. 

Visual issues seemed more a rarity back then.  I was “The kid the with the glasses.”

Until I was thirty.

Then I got contacts.

A miraculous transformation. 

The first time I inserted them at home, I looked in the mirror, and, I don’t know, like it’s some monumental milestone in history or something, I dutifully recorded,

“I am seeing myself without glasses for the first time in my life.”

I still saw bad. 

But I really looked different.


Early December, 2018.

I receive a mailed notification that, since I had now passed seventy, my next Driver’s License renewal process would require taking a written test.

And an accompanying vision test.

(NOTE:  This will not be a DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) “Ordeal Story.”  My only reaction to that experience is that the DMV is like Poland, waiting for a potato.)

I was viscerally shaken by this sudden announcement.  But I immediately went to work.  You can’t study for an eye test.  So I threw myself into the written test. 

Unlike seeing, studying is, maybe, my best thing.

I made an online DMV appointment, and I began to prepare.

The California Driver Handbook runs 112 pages, and I diligently pored over all of them.  I knew which way to turn my front wheels when parking downhill and there’s a curb.  (Towards the curb.)  I knew if I sold or transferred my vehicle, how soon I must inform the DMV.  (Within five days.)  I knew the penalty for abandoning an animal by the side of the road.  (A fine of up to a thousand dollars, six months in jail, or both.  And wouldn’t you know it?  That one was actually on my test.)

By the scheduled appointment date, I felt confidently ready.

At least for the written test.

I meditated extra long that morning.  But it only partially worked.  When I entered the building, I felt immediately bewildered and the person who helped me said,

“Slow down.”

Summarizing Highlights of the License Renewal Process (which remains ongoing, as of this writing):

At that original appointment, I aced the written test.

And I flunked the eye test.

Sent away with forms for my eye doctor to fill out, confirming I was still fit to handle a car, I passed the ophthalmologist’s eye test.  It looked like “clear sailing” from there.

But it wasn’t.

Returning to the DMV with the ophthalmological paperwork, I learned that since it was my optometrist, not my ophthalmologist, who had actually fitted my contacts, I needed to get the paperwork for filled out again, by my optometrist.  And, since I was starting the renewal process from scratch,

I had to take another eye test at the DMV.

Which I flunked again.

I was also informed that, for clerical reasons I do not entirely understand,

I was now also required to take a driving test.

(I just stopped for a moment, overwhelmed even in retrospect.)

I made yet another DMV appointment – to return for my driving test, along with my second batch of completed paperwork – and I went home to call my optometrist.  Because of “operational backlog”, my next DMV appointment is not for ten weeks. 

My real test, I anticipate, will be handing the “interim.”

So there you have it.  I had not planned on writing about this… unless I passed.  But the issue is dominating my mind, blocking everything else from coming in.

The stakes here seem daunting.  It is good that there’s Uber and Lyft.  But the loss of personal freedom if I fail…

Still, I woke up this morning, ate breakfast, read the paper, exercised on the treadmill… like there’s no looming horribleness down the road.

And it dawningly occurred to me,

“My worst thing”?

It’s important.

But the way I’ve been carrying on business,

It feels, mostly,

Like just a thing.


YEKIMI said...

I also have bad eyesight [genetics, I'm guessing.] Without glasses, I am legally blind. Wasn't that way when I started having trouble seeing the blackboard in 7th grade,so they made me move to the front row in the classroom so I could see the board. By 8th grade, that didn't help and the teacher wouldn't let me sit on the edge of the desk to see the board so glasses it was. Last eye exam told the optometrist I wanted the cheapest lenses, which would have been glass. He said they'd be so thick and heavy they'd never stay up on my face and would probably tear my ears off. I asked how thick, he said "Hold up your thumb" and said "Lenses would be about that thick".So had to go with the more expensive "thinner" polycarbonate progressive lenses that cost three times as much. When contacts became a thing it was a no-go for me due to allergies that made my eyes itchy and watery. Lasik came around, had to go to an ophthalmologist to see if I could have it done. Comes back and says I have three things wrong with my eyes that meant I could not have Lasik surgery. Now have cataracts beginning and just got tossed by my insurance [thanks Trump!] so that now rules out cataract surgery. I guess I'll soon be reading your blog with a magnifying glass and the browser font enlargement set on maximum! It's fun getting old!

bleakhouse said...

You were smart and you were funny. And we liked you. BHCVS 1959 to 1963.